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This article is about the company. For the town, see Alcoa, Tennessee. For the river, see Alcoa River. For other uses, see Alcoa (disambiguation).
Alcoa Inc.
Traded as
Industry Metals, Manufacturing
Founded Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. (1888)
Founder Charles Martin Hall
Headquarters Lever House, Midtown Manhattan, New York City
(Operational base in Pittsburgh)
Area served
Key people
Klaus Kleinfeld
(Chairman and CEO)
Products Value-added products made of titanium, nickel and aluminum, as well as bauxite, alumina and primary aluminum
Revenue Increase $ 23.9 billion (2014)[1]
Increase $ 71 million (2014 Total Segment ATOI)[1]
Increase $ 268 million (2014)[1]
Total assets Increase $ 37.4 billion (2014)[2]
Total equity Decrease $ 14.8 billion (2014)[3]
Number of employees
59,000 (December 2014)[3]

Alcoa Inc. (from Aluminum Company of America) is an American public multi-national company best known for its work with lightweight metals and advanced manufacturing techniques. The world's third largest producer of aluminum, behind Chinalco and Rusal,[4][5] the company has corporate headquarters in New York City. From its operational base in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States, Alcoa conducts operations in 30 countries. It is one of the world's largest lightweight metal manufacturers of products made of aluminum, titanium and nickel. Alcoa’s products are used worldwide in aircraft, automobiles, commercial transportation, packaging, building and construction, oil and gas, defense, and industrial applications. Alcoa's products include fastening systems for the Airbus A380 jet, sheets for Ford's F-150 truck, and the first aluminum fan blade for Pratt & Whitney jet engines.[6] Alcoa also supplies aerospace-grade aluminum produced in South Korea to Samsung Electronics for its Galaxy S6 and S6 edge models.[7] Alcoa is a major producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum, and alumina combined, through its participation in all major aspects of the industry: technology, mining, refining, smelting, fabricating, and recycling.[8] As of 2014, the company has $37.4 billion in assets and 59000 employees.

Its operations are made up of three business groups: Engineered Products and Solutions (EPS); Global Rolled Products (GRP); and Global Primary Products (GPP). EPS consists of five businesses: aerospace, gas turbines, building and construction, and commercial transportation. EPS mainly concerns the manufacturing operations, such as production of airfoils, fasteners and architectural systems. The GRP segment possesses two units: Global Packaging (producing beverage containers, industrial packing and foil); and Aerospace, Transportation and Industrial, which manufactures aluminum plates and sheets for these markets. The GPP manages the commodity segment, wherein the mining, refining, smelting and energy operations are run. The company's largest business unit, GRP, generated 31% of its revenue in 2014, while the EPS business made up 25%. The primary metals unit, or GPP, accounted for 28% of revenue, while the production of alumina contributed the remainder.[6]

As of 2016, Alcoa will be split into two publicly traded entities, an aluminum commodity business and a higher-value manufacturing operations company. The former will keep the Alcoa name, while the latter's name is still to be determined. While the aluminum company will possess five business units including bauxite and aluminum, the second entity's portfolio will comprise EPS, GRP and Transportation and Construction Solutions (TCS). The split is to be finalised by mid 2016. The "new Alcoa" consists of 64 facilities, a staff of roughly 17000 and a yearly revenue of $13.2 billion for 2014. The second company spans 157 sites and employs about 43000 workers, having a comparative revenue of $14.5 billion.[9][10]

As of 2007, the company has undergone a divestment from primary aluminum, focusing on higher-profit value added metal products, such as aluminum sheets and titanium castings instead. Since that year, Alcoa has closed or sold 1.3 million tons of its smelting capacity (and will continue to do so), according to the Wall Street Journal. The change in strategy has produced a favourable turnaround, with the company seeing its best operating results since 2008, with a net profit of $368 million in 2014.[11][12]

Alcoa owns several businesses, such as Kawneer and Howmet Castings. Rank Group Limited, a New Zealand-based company bought Alcoa's Packaging and Consumer businesses for $2.7 billion. The sale was announced on December 21, 2007,[13] and closed in the first quarter of 2008.[14] Alcoa was a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average until 2013, when it was replaced by Nike.[6]


Early History - Mining, Smelting and Manufacturing[edit]

In 1886, Charles Martin Hall, a graduate of Oberlin College, discovered the process of smelting aluminum affordably, almost simultaneously with Paul Héroult in France. He realized that by passing an electric current through a bath of cryolite and aluminum oxide, the then semi-rare metal aluminum remained as a byproduct. This discovery, now called the Hall-Héroult process, is still the only process used to make aluminum (however, see also Bayer process).[6]

A tablet marking where in November 1888, the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, now Aluminum Company of America, produced the first commercial run of aluminum by the Hall Electrolytic Process. Tablet installed by Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in 1938.

In 1887, Hall made an agreement to try his process at the Electric Smelting and Aluminum Company plant in Lockport, New York, but it was not used and Hall left after one year. On Thanksgiving Day 1888, with the help of Alfred E. Hunt, he started the Pittsburgh Reduction Company with an experimental smelting plant on Smallman Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of Alcoa's first products was its aluminum tea kettle.[6] Aluminum was selling for $2 a pound in 1890.[15] In 1891, the company went into production in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. At this point the company began establishing its smelting and extraction businesses while also maintaining a solid manufacturing base in its New Kensington Works.[16] 1894 saw the company buy its first small bauxite deposits in the state of Georgia; the company later expanded by buying deposits in Arkansas. By 1909, the U.S. government alleged Alcoa owned 90% of the country's economically viable bauxite deposits.[17]


In 1895, a third site opened at Niagara Falls. In 1901, Alcoa began lightweighting automobiles. The Wright Brothers' first manned flight at Kitty Hawk was made with a plane containing an Alcoa aluminum engine block and crankcase, to save weight in order to accomplish the feat. By about 1903, after a settlement with Hall's former employer, and while its patents were in force, the company was the only legal supplier of aluminum in the United States.[18][19] By the turn of the century, worldwide aluminum output was just 8000 metric tons.[15]

By 1902 New Kensington consisted of 173,000 sq. feet on 15 acres with 276 employees and the company operated hydropower and reduction plants in Niagara Falls, NY (1895), Shawinigan Falls, Quebec (1900), mining operations in Bauxite, AR (1901) and reduction facilities in East St. Louis, IL (1902). "The Aluminum Company of America" became the firm's new name on January 1, 1907.[20] By this time, the company was producing 15 million lb of aluminum per year.[16] The acronym "Alcoa" was coined in 1910, given as a name to two of the locales where major corporate facilities were located (although one of these has since been changed), and in 1999 was adopted as the official corporate name.

Aluminum nodules produced by Charles Martin Hall in 1886, using the electrolytic process, Exhibit in the Senator John Heinz History Center.

The company's expansion of operations to the Dutch and British Guianas during the early years of the nineteenth century established the company as the "dominant actor" in the bauxite industry throughout the interwar period, being in control of the best deposits in the region. Alcoa operating in the British Empire's soil had to concede to an agreement with the British government, which consisted of accepting that bauxite from "public properties already leased" was to be placed at the government's disposal. An alumina refinery was built in Canada during the early 1930s to accommodate to these demands, wherein in case of an emergency the government would be able to seize the aluminum it needed. During the Second World War, this policy proved useful for the war effort, and some output from Alcan smelters was used.[17][21]

From 1902 until 1915 additional plants in Massena, New York (1903); Alcoa, Tennessee (1911); Edgewater, New Jersey (1915); and Badin, North Carolina (1915) came online while New Kensington had 31 buildings in the complex housing six departments (tubes, sheets, rods, bar and wire, extrusion, jobbing, foil) and two subsidiaries (Aluminum Cooking Utensil Company and Aluminum Seal Company). In 1907 it created the "company town" of Pine Grove, New York, for workers outside Massena. In Badin, Alcoa, Maryville and elsewhere the company funded the construction of schools, parks, playgrounds and medical facilities.[20] In 1910, Alcoa introduced its aluminum foil. By 1912, Alcoa had extensive holdings in Europe, including Norway, France, Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, England and Germany.

By 1917, the U.S. military used 90% of Alcoa's aluminum production for the war effort, by means of producing equipment such as helmets, gas masks and identification tags.[22] By the end of World War I Alcoa's New Kensington facility accounted for 3,292 workers—a fifth of the local population—and covered over 1 million square feet of manufacturing space on 75 acres.[20] Alcoa had roughly half of the world's capacity in aluminum by 1928, signifying a total of approximately 150000 metric tons.[23] At this time, a new holding termed Aluminum Limited of Canada, based in Montreal, was created to encompass all international operations by the company; it was later renamed Alcan in 1966.[23][24] It retained an Alcoa management, and notably at this time both companies remained the world's two biggest aluminum producers.[25]

During the interwar period, Alcoa purchased several European companies to keep them out of the American market.[26] Amelia Earhart's plane during her last flight in 1937 was supplied by Alcoa.[27] In 1938, the Justice Department charged Alcoa with illegal monopolization, and demanded that the company be dissolved. The case of United States v. Alcoa was settled six years later. During World War II, Alcoa built 20 plants in 3 years to meet the wartime demands. For instance, its Cleveland Works facility was put in place as part of the Air Force Heavy Press Program and still remains in use.[26][28][29]

Former site of Alcoa Edgewater Works in Edgewater, NJ.


Notably, 5704 Alcoa Aluminum spandrels were used to build the Empire State Building.[30] In 1952, Alcoa built the first aluminum-sheathed skyscraper in the U.S.; the Alcoa Building in Pittsburgh served as its headquarters.[31] During the next 6 years, Alcoa aluminum-sheathed buildings across the U.S. numbered over 600.[31] In 1955, Alcoa produced the first aluminum wheel for a passenger car, the Cadillac Eldorado.[32][33] At the turn of the decade, in 1961, Alcoa of Australia was formed, with intentions of mining the country's vast bauxite reserves.[34] Under the termed Mineral Lease, Alcoa developed mines along the Darling Range, extending from east of Perth to Collie. The first mine at Jarrahdale was opened in 1963. The Lease was reduced to 7129 km2 in 1994, and bioremediation of the unused areas began.[35]

In 1962, Alcoa developed the first canned beer easy opener system, which was adopted by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company for its Iron City beer.[36][37] Alcoa's Technical Center outside of Pittsburgh was founded three years later, becoming the company's light metals research center, still in operations to this day. October 1979 saw the incorporation of the Alcoa Recycling Company, at the time reprocessing 110 million pounds of scrap aluminum.[38] As of 2015 it processes 1.3 billion pounds of scrap aluminum annually.[39]


Alcoa purchased an 8% stake of Aluminium Corporation of China (Chalco) in 2001.[40] It tried to form a strategic alliance with China's largest aluminum producer, at its Pingguo facility; however, it was unsuccessful. Alcoa sold their stake in Chalco on September 12, 2007, for around $2 billion.[41][42] In 2001, Alcoa was selected as a component of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, featuring on it for 14 consecutive years.[43]

In 2004, Alcoa's specialty chemicals business was sold to two private equity firms led by Rhône Group for an enterprise value of $342 million, which included the assumption of debt and other unfunded obligations.[44] Rhône Group then changed the name to Almatis, Inc. Almatis has been operated by Dubai International Capital since 2007.[45] This year saw the development of Alcoa's first aluminum beer bottle, also by Iron City.[36]

Continuous Cold Mill tower at ALCOA's North Plant in Alcoa, Tennessee, built in 1987.

In 2005 Alcoa acquired two major production facilities in Russia, at Samara and Belaya Kalitva.[46] Also in that year, Alcoa began construction in Iceland on Alcoa Fjarðaál, a state-of-the-art aluminum smelter and the company's first greenfield smelter in more than 20 years,[47] albeit under heavy criticism by local and international NGOs related to a controversial dam project exclusively dedicated to supplying electricity to this smelter.[48] This dam is the largest concrete-face rock-fill embankment dam in Europe.[48]

In 2006, Alcoa relocated its top executives from Pittsburgh to New York City. Although the company's principal office is located in New York City, the company's operational headquarters are still located at its Corporate Center in Pittsburgh. Alcoa employs approximately 2,000 people at its Corporate Center in Pittsburgh and 60 at its principal office in New York.[49]

Alcoa was named one of the top three most sustainable corporations in the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.[50][51] June 2007 saw the opening of the Alco Fjardaál greenfield smelter in Reydarfjordur, Iceland.[52] In late 2007, Alcoa sold its automotive castings business to Compass Automotive Group.[53]

In February 2007, it was reported BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto planned to make separate bids for Alcoa. In May, Alcoa announced a $27 billion hostile takeover bid for Alcan, in an attempt to form the world's largest aluminum producer.[54] Alcan tried to take over Alcoa instead. BHP Billiton subsequently announced its bid to acquire Rio Tinto, after which Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) did as well. Rio Tinto reacted by bidding for Alcan, after which BHP and CVRD considered taking over Rio Tinto. In October, however, Rio Tinto's Alcan friendly takeover deal closed, wherein its $38.1 billion bid turned out to be 40% higher than Alcoa's original offer, the biggest in Canadian history. Alcoa thus withdrew its bid.[55][56][57][58][59] In 2008, Aluminum Corporation of China Limited and Alcoa invested $1.2 billion to acquire 12% of Rio Tinto.[53][60]

On January 9, 2014, Alcoa reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice over charges of bribing Bahraini officials. Under the terms of the settlement they will pay the SEC $175 million to settle the charges. To settle the criminal claims with the DOJ, Alcoa World Alumina (AWA, a company within Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals) is pleading guilty to one count of violating the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).[61] AWA will pay the DOJ $223 million in five equal installments over the next four years, bringing the company’s total bill for the scandal to $384 million.[62] In February 2014, Bud Light introduced their new Alcoa aluminum reclosable 16-ounce bottles.[63]

Appointment of Klaus Kleinfeld[edit]

On May 8, 2008, Klaus Kleinfeld was appointed CEO of Alcoa, succeeding Alain Belda, having sat on the board since 2003.[6][64] He previously held the post of Siemens CEO, being credited with turning it to a "proper company".[6][65] On April 23, 2010, Alcoa’s Board of Directors elected Kleinfeld to the office of Chairman, following Belda’s planned retirement.[66] He has been credited with Alcoa's change in strategy since 2007,[6] wherein the company is set to transition "toward higher value products".[67] As part of this strategy, Alcoa is set to curtail its mining and smelting capacity, and instead focus on manufacturing high-end products for several markets. When Kleinfeld took over as CEO, aluminum sold for $3400 a ton; six months later it had dropped to $1100. In order to maintain profits, he prioritised developing products such as aluminum-lithium alloys, aluminum bottles, and high-tech fasteners, instead of maintaining the commodity aluminum business as it was.[68]

Change in Strategy[edit]

In June 2010, Alcoa launched construction of its newest aluminum production facility as a joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company. The project includes a bauxite mine, a refinery, a smelter and a rolling mill. The new operations in Saudi Arabia have considerably lower costs (particularly energy, which is required in large amounts for the Héroult process) than those in Tennessee, Australia and Spain.[11] On July 16, 2012, Alcoa announced that it would take over full ownership and operation of Evermore Recycling and make it part of Alcoa's Global Packaging group. Evermore Recycling is a leader in used beverage can recycling, purchasing more recycled cans than any other group worldwide.[69] In June 2013, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Fusina primary aluminium smelter in Venice, where production had been curtailed since June 2010.[70]

Alcoa has been shifting from mining, smelting and refining to value added businesses such as the automotive and aerospace manufacturing industries.[71] In June 2014, Alcoa purchased Firth Rixson, a UK-based jet engine component maker for $3 billion. Firth is the world's largest supplier of seamless rings for aero-engines. As part of this move, Boeing and Ford are said to have increased their utilisation of Alcoa's products in their manufacturing processes.[72] The deal would enable Alcoa to make about 90% of the required mechanical parts of a jet engine.[6] In July that same year, Alcoa announced a $1.1 billion 10-year supply deal, to supply jet engine parts to Pratt & Whitney. This will include the first lightweight aluminum alloy fan blade, developed by Alcoa for Pratt & Whitney's PurePower engines. They will also provide other engine products, such as vanes and castings.[73] In March 2015, Alcoa acquired TITAL GmbH, a Bestwig-based German titanium and aluminum structural castings company employing 650 workers, with looks to tap onto the demand for advanced jet engine components. TITAL counts with clients such as Airbus and Rolls-Royce.[74] Alcoa is also spending $60 million on a specialised 3D printing manufacturing center in its Pittsburgh facility, which will be used to research advanced techniques for large-scale 3D manufacturing. Alcoa is combining this technology with traditional processed such as forging, in order to build toold and prototypes.[75]

In 2015, the company introduced its Micromill process, developed by researchers at Alcoa's New Kensington Technical Center and its flat-rolled products business. The aluminum alloy is made by "changing the microstructure of aluminum via a proprietary process"; consequently, automotive parts produced via this process are twice as malleable and 30% lighter compared to high-strength steel, as well as requiring just 20 minutes, half the energy, and a considerably smaller rolling mill to manufacture.[71] The company will use this technology across its segments, such as automotive and aerospace.[76][77] Another proprietary process designed by Alcoa is the Ampliforge process, combining additive manufacturing with subtractive manufacturing. For example, a metal part is designed and made by 3D printing, then treated by traditional methods such as forging, intended to increase the part's strength.[78]

In March 2015, Alcoa announced a review of 14% of its global smelting capacity and 16% of its global refining capacity (about 500 thousand and 2.8 million tons respectively), cutting back its substantial global smelting operations, particularly in Brazil and Australia as part of that process. The company made acquisitions increasing its focus on aerospace products.[79] For instance, in March 2015, Alcoa announced its purchase of RTI International Metals, which supplies titanium and whose customers include Boeing, for a total of $1.3 billion. RTI possesses production facilities in Niles and Canton, Ohio, and employs about 2600 people.[67] In view of the projected increase in aerospace sales and automotive production worldwide, Alcoa sees its divestment from the commodity market per se as a reflective measure of the economy. The company posted a first-quarter net income in 2015 of $195 million, in great part impulsed by its new businesses, in contrast to its traditional aluminum smelting and refining segments.[80] The price of titanium is expected to increase about 5% annually over the following 5 years, while the price of aluminum has decreased 30% since 2011.[81]

Alcoa announced in September 2015 that it would split its operations into two different business entities. The split is projected to occur in the first half of 2016, wherein the legacy aluminum firm will retain the Alcoa name. Klaus Kleinfeld will become the unnamed entity's CEO while retaining his position as Alcoa's chairman throughout the transition. The legacy company's EBITDA for 2014 was $2.8 billion, while the new firm's amounted to $2.2 billion.[82] Alcoa shareholders will possess stock in both companies.[83] This move was part of a "long-predicted plan", according to the Financial Times, as only about a third of Alcoa's produced aluminium is used by its specialised manufacturing operations. Alcoa's board unanimously backed the split, which is in line with its recent acquisitions and divestments.[84]

Recent developments[edit]

In October 2015, Alcoa won a $1.1 billion contract to supply titanium to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II jets for the period between 2016 to 2024.[85]

Environmental record[edit]

In February 1999, Alcoa cleaned soils and sediment contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and lead at the York Oil federal Superfund site in Moira, New York, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency. The site, a former waste oil recycling storage facility, accepted waste oil from a number of companies, including Alcoa. The facility was improperly managed and operated and, as a result, soils on the York Oil Property and nearby wetlands sediments and groundwater were contaminated. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Superfund Unilateral Order on December 31, 1998, requiring Alcoa to excavate, treat and dispose of the contaminated wetland sediments.[86]

In April 2003, Alcoa Inc. agreed to spend an estimated $330 million to install a new coal-fired power plant with state-of-the-art pollution controls to eliminate the vast majority of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from the power plant at Alcoa's aluminum production facility in Rockdale, Texas.[87] The settlement was the ninth case the Bush administration pursued to bring the coal-fired power plant industry into full compliance with the Clean Air Act. Alcoa was unlawfully operating at the Rockdale facility since it overhauled the Rockdale power plant without installing necessary pollution controls and without first obtaining proper permits required by the "New Source Review" program of the Clean Air Act.[88] In 2005, Alcoa was named among the top 5 Green Companies in the world by Business Week Magazine.[89] The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Alcoa 15th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the United States. The ranking is based on the quantity (13 million pounds in 2005) and toxicity of the emissions.[90]

Alcoa reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 3.1 million metric tons in 2013.[91] In July 2015, Alcoa became one of 13 U.S. companies that pledged "to stand with the American Business Act on Climate Pledge". As part of this pledge, Brian Deese stated in a press conference Alcoa would commit to reduce absolute emissions by 50% by 2020. Kevin McKnight, Alcoa’s chief sustainability officer and vice-president of environment, health and safety, said: "to de-carbonize the world is one of our objectives".[92] Alcoa is aiming for a 100% reduction in landfilled waste by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.[91] Since 2001, Alcoa has featured on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, part of the Dow Jones Global Indexes, for diminishing gas emissions, helping make engines more fuel efficient, its MicromillTM technology, and producing lighter wheels, among other actions.[93][94]


Alcoa operates over 200 facilities in 30 countries, employing approximately 59000 workers worldwide.[95] Its operations are made up of three business groups: Engineered Products and Solutions (EPS); Global Rolled Products (GRP); and Global Primary Products (GPP).[96] Its EPS carries a portfolio of five businesses: aerospace, gas turbines, building and construction, and commercial transportation. EPS sees the production of airfoils for engines and turbines; fasteners for aerospace and the transportation industry; architectural systems such as walls and windows; forged aluminum vehicle wheels; and muli-material fabricated parts used in the automotive, aerospace, defense and oil industries. This segment, however, will be split into an aerospace segment and another centred on construction and commercial wheels. Aerospace market products will remain as part of EPS, while the new segment focused on building and transportation will be called TCS.[97] The GRP segment possesses two units: Global Packaging, which produces beverage containers, industrial packing and foil in Brazil; and Aerospace, Transportation and Industrial, which mainly manufactures aluminum plates and sheets for these markets. Finally, the GPP manages the commodity segment, wherein the mining, refining, smelting and energy operations are run; the segment mines bauxite, then refined into alumina, and produces primary aluminum in turn used by the company's other segments or sold to customers or traders.[98][99][100] This last segment also manages Alcoa's power facilities, generating about a fifth of its worldwide smelters' energy requirements.

Alcoa owns and operates the majority of its alumina refineries through its 60% share of Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals (AWAC).[101] AWAC produces alumina from three refineries: Kwinana (Australia), Point Comfort (USA) and San Ciprian (Spain).[102] On January 3, 2003, Alcoa opened its new operations headquarters on the North Shore of Pittsburgh. This move came about after it donated its 50-year-old skyscraper headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh to the Regional Development Authority, in what is now known as the Regional Enterprise Tower.[103]

As of September 2015, Alcoa's legacy commodity business was split from its specialised manufacturing arm, creating a new corporate entity. When the break-up finalises, the aluminum company will possess five business units, including bauxite and aluminum; the second entity's portfolio consists of EPS, GRP and Transportation and Construction Solutions (TCS).[9][10][82]

Americas and Caribbean[edit]

Barack Obama speaking to Alcoa workers at the Riverdale, Iowa plant.
Forged aluminum wheels. Made by Alcoa with their typical design.

The majority of Alcoa's South American operations take place in Brazil, where there are both mining, smelting, refining and manufacturing facilities.[104] Brazil sees the procurement of primary aluminum as well as the production of aerospace sheets and plates, tooling and accessories. Alcoa also managed extensive mining operations in Suriname, supported by its own hydroelectric plant there. As of November 2015, mining and refining operations would be idled.[105] In 2015, Alcoa announced its closure of the Poços de Caldas primary aluminum smelter, as part of its product portfolio movement towards value-added products. This reduced its global smelting capacity to 3.4 million tons per year. In the first quarter of 2015, Alcoa's value-added light metal products, such as those for the automotive and aerospace markets accounted for 57.4% of its overall revenues.[106][107]

In North America, Alcoa manages facilities in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Canadian operations include primary aluminum, aluminum, copper-based and titanium metal components for defense, aerospace and commercial industries, as well as building products.[108] Mexico holds a few production plants, such as for forged wheels, fasteners and tools. In the U.S., the company has a presence in over 20 states across all business groups.


Alcoa created a plant just outside of Maryville in Blount County, Tennessee, which was the biggest provider of aluminum in the South. The area needed housing for workers, so Alcoa built many houses, schools, and other facilities.[109] The area eventually turned into a city and the wife of Alcoa hydro-engineer James Rickey came up with the name Alcoa as an acronym for Aluminum Company of America. The name Alcoa was, therefore, created specifically to name the town Alcoa, Tennessee, which was founded in 1919. Over time, the name Alcoa was unofficially used to reference the company as well, including its first employee-created credit union in the state. The Aluminum Company of America officially changed its name to Alcoa, Inc. in 1999.[110]

Alcoa's Massena West plant is the longest operating aluminum plant in world, having been in continuous operation since 1902.[109] In November of 2015, Alcoa temporarily idled the smelter at the West plant, but continued to operate the Forgings and Extrusions facilities. The Reynolds Aluminum Plant became Massena East when the companies merged in 2000. The facility was shut down permanently in 2015 as part of the idling of the West Plant.[111]

Alcoa had a smelting plant in Badin, North Carolina from 1917 to 2007 and continues a hydroelectric power operation there.[112] Alcoa also operates an aluminum smelting plant of similar size to the one in Tennessee in Warrick County, Indiana, just east of Newburgh. Vectren Energy operates a coal power plant on the site to provide electricity.[113]

Alcoa formed the Alcoa Minerals of Jamaica subsidiary on the island in 1959, shipping their first load of bauxite in 1963 from Rocky Point. Later in 1972, Alcoa established a 500,000 metric tonne per year refinery where they processed bauxite into alumina.[114] They have continued to upgrade the plant through the years, reaching a capability of 1.425 metric tonnes per year. In 1988 the Jamaican government gained a 50% share in the subsidiary and renamed the operation to Jamalco, Alcoa being the managing partner.[115][116] Expansion of the operation in 2007 resulted in Alcoa owning a total of 55% of the operation. In October 2014, the company announced the sale of its portion the operations with Noble Group in Jamaica, citing high energy costs as their main reason for doing so. Under a compensated service agreement, Alcoa (through AWAC) will continue to manage Jamalco for 3 years.[117]

EPS and GRP[edit]

Alcoa has a plant in Riverdale, Iowa, which was founded in 1947 on the banks of the Mississippi River. It is the company's aerospace supply plant and hub.[118] It has produced metal parts for space vehicles, including Apollo 11.[119][120] Notably, some of its aluminum is still found on the moon's surface.[121][121] Its facilities in Iowa and Tennessee have undergone $300 and $250 million expansions respectively, in order to increase production of aluminum sheets for the automotive industry, for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors.[76] Alcoa implements its technologies like the Micromill TM at these facilities, with the company estimating an increase of $1.3 billion in 2018 in its automotive sheet revenue. Both facilities can move between automotive and can sheet production, depending on changing market demands, while also featuring large recycling facilities for automotive scrap.[122] Alcoa's Micromill technology (used in the 2016 Ford F-150) is notable for manufacturing a coil of aluminum alloy in 20 minutes, as opposed to 20 days by using conventional manufacturing processes, while reducing a plant's size by 75%. An experimental micromill was set up in San Antonio, Texas to test the technology with Ford. The latter has exclusive North American rights for an undisclosed number of years.[123]

Alcoa invests significantly in innovation and maintains several Research and Development Centers in the United States.[124] The largest one, Alcoa Technical Center, is located East of its Pittsburgh Headquarters at New Kensington, Pennsylvania. The "Tech Center" is as large as some college campuses and has its own zip code. Alcoa's extensive safety program continuously improves safety at the Tech Center.[125][126] After Paul O'Neill became Alcoa CEO in 1987, Alcoa became one of the safest companies in the world, despite the aluminum industry's inherent risks.[127] The Tech Center has developed technology for the Samsung Galaxy smartphone.[128]

The company announced in 2015 a $60 million expansion of their Pennsylvania R&D center, intended to boost their 3D printing capabilities for the automotive and aerospace sectors.[129] It will also explore new aluminum, titanium and nickel alloys.[130] It also announced two expansions at its Whitehall, Michigan location, a first one worth $16.7 million, and a second one worth $22 million, intended to invest in Hot isostatic pressing technology for its aerospace parts.[131]

Alcoa makes tire rims for cars, buses, and vehicles. The rims for cars, buses, and vehicles are machined in Barberton, Ohio, and forged at Alcoa's plant in Cleveland, near the massive Arcelor Mittal steel plant. It also has offices in nearby Independence, Ohio.[99] Alcoa also has a subsidiary called Alcoa Fastening Systems, which manufactures aerospace fasteners. AFS Headquarters is located in Torrance, California, and in France, with half of the manufacturing locations located in southern California and others located in Arizona, New York, France, Germany, China, Hungary, Mexico, UK and Morocco. AFS also compromises Sales and Distribution/Logistics.[56][132]

In October 2014, Alcoa opened the world's largest aluminum-lithium plant in Lafayette, Indiana, which creates alloys for the aerospace industry. If forms part of Alcoa's three aluminum-lithium expansions (the others being the Alcoa Technical Center in Pittsburgh and the Kitts Green facility in the UK), at a cost of $90 million. Alcoa is currently the premier supplier of said alloy, and makes components for the Airbus A380, A350, Boeing 787 and Gulfstream G650.[133]


Alcoa's operates in Africa mainly through Guinea and Morocco, through a bauxite mine in the former and aerospace manufacturing in the latter. In Morocco specifically, Alcoa manufactures fastening systems for the aerospace industry at its new Alcoa Fastening Systems department's Casablanca industrial park.[134] Alcoa's affiliate in Ghana, the Volta Aluminum Company, was completely closed between May 2003 and early 2006, due to problems with its electricity supply.[135][136]

In Guinea, Alcoa operates through Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG), a consortium of aluminum companies including Alcan and Dadco, the other half of which is owned by the Guinean government. This consortium is known as Halco Mining. In 2006, Alcoa extracted 86300 tons of bauxite daily, used for consumer brands production, such as Reynolds wrap. Guinea has the largest bauxite deposits in the planet.[137][138] CBG announced in May 2015 its plan to expand its production capacity to 23.5 million tons per day by 2018, at a cost of $1 billion.[139]


Apart from its European headquarters in Switzerland, Alcoa operates in 13 countries, with significant mining and industrial holdings in Russia, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Spain, and France.[140] These last four countries signify the bulk of the company's European operations. France counts with significant aerospace and building products manufacturing, as well as specialty producs; similarly, Germany produces high value aerospace components, as well as more traditional automotive and industrial products, including rods, bars, tubes, bolts, pins and fasteners; Spain focuses on two operating segments, mainly construction via architectural aluminum sustems, and primary aluminum productions; across the UK, Alcoa manufactures aerospace components, forgings, fasteners and bolts, castings, and notably armour and tooling.[141]

Alcoa site in Drunen, Netherlands.


In 2006, Alcoa and the government of Iceland signed an agreement on instigating a thorough feasibility study for a new 250,000 tpy (Tons Per Year) smelter in Bakki by Húsavík in Northern Iceland. In October 2011, the proposed project was dropped because "the power availability and proposed pricing would not support an aluminum smelter".[8][142]

The Fjardaál smelter in eastern Iceland was completed in June 2007, and brought into full operation the following April. The plant processes 940 tons of aluminum a day, with a capacity of 346,000 metric tons a year,[142] making it Alcoa's second largest capacity smelter. For power, the plant relies on the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, constructed and operated by the state owned Landsvirkjun specifically for the smelting operation. That project was subject to controversy due to its impact on the environment.[143] Notably, Iceland's substantial energy surplus is used by its 3 aluminum smelters, owned by Rio Tinto and Alcoa, together producing up to 820 million tons a year.[144]

On November 21, 2006, Alcoa announced that it planned to close the Waunarlwydd works in Swansea, with the loss of 298 jobs. Production ceased at the Swansea plant on January 27, 2007.[145] A small site closure team worked at the site until the 31st December 2008. The site is still owned by Alcoa, but is now managed locally and renamed Westfield Industrial Park.[146] Several of the large buildings are leased out to local businesses.[147] Since 2013, Alcoa has been looking to sell three of its Spanish and French plants, in Amorebieta, Alicante and Castelsarrasin.[148][149] As of January 2015, Alcoa is said to have found a buyer in Atlas Holdings.[150]

EPS and GRP[edit]

Established shortly before World War II, the facility at Kitts Green, Birmingham, has produced many aluminium products. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the plant focused on flat-rolled products for the aerospace industry.[151] As of 2007 the plant had 530 employees. Alcoa also owns a division in Exeter, known as Howmet Castings. The division here is home to a both an Alloy and Casting facility. As of 2015 the plant employed around 550 employees.[152]


Alcoa first began commercial operations in Russia and opened an office in Moscow in 1993. Initially having tried, under Paul O'Neill, to purchase a Siberian smelter, the company refrained from doing so. It returned in 2005, under Alain Belda, to acquire two of the largest fabricating plants, both about 500 miles (800 km) from the capital. As of 2008, the Company employs approximately 7880 people at its manufacturing operations in Samara and Belaya Kalitva.[153][154] Since 2005, the company's reported investments reached over $787 million in its Russian operations, including a complete modernization of production equipment and processes at its two plants.[154] The plants produce a wide range of aluminum semi-fabricated products, including flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions and forgings for the packaging, aerospace, automotive, building and construction, commercial transportation, oil and gas and industrial markets.[154][155] Both plants hace obtained the ISO 14001 standard.[154] The Samara plant contains the world's largest forging and extrusion presses.[154]

Throughout the rest of Asia, Alcoa counts with several mining and production facilities, primarily in China, India and Japan, albeit maintaining some activities in South Korea, Singapore, the UAE and other countries.[156] Chinese operations are extensive, encompassing practically all of Alcoa's operating segments, including aerospace manufacturing, wheels and other engineered items production, logistics and trading. Prominently, Alcoa operates a fastening-systems facility in Suzhou (opened in 2006), and is an important supplier of aluminum products to Chinese aircraft manufacturers for their Boeing subcontracts, such as the Xian Aircraft Corporation Boeing 737 vertical-tail assemblies.[56] India's participation mainly has to do with industrial production of items such as fasteners, thermal coatings and wires.[157] Similarly, Japan produces elaborate aerospace components, castings and forgings, and holds a major sales hub.



Australia has some of the largest bauxite deposits in the planet, and as such is one of its largest miners, having produced 70 million tons of bauxite in 2010.[25][158] Alcoa operates bauxite mines, alumina refineries and aluminum smelters through Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals, a joint venture between Alumina Limited and Alcoa.[104] Alcoa operates two bauxite mines in Western Australia—the Huntly and Willowdale mines. Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals owns and operates three alumina refineries in Western Australia: Kwinana, Pinjarra, and Wagerup. The Wagerup expansion plans (increasing its refining capacity to 4.7 million tonnes a year) have been put on hold due to the Global Financial Crisis, and as of September 2015 these plans are still on hold.[159] In 2015, Alcoa sent shipments of unprocessed Darling Range bauxite to overseas refineries for the first time, to assess its economic viability. This bauxite contains under 30% aluminum oxide.[160]

Point Henry plant.

GRP and EPS[edit]

Two aluminum smelters were also operated in the state of Victoria at Portland and Point Henry; the Point Henry smelter was closed in August 2014, together with its associated coal power station and two rolling mills;[161][162] Alcoa subsequently contributed $5 million into the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund.[163] Alcoa Australia Rolled Products, a 100% Alcoa Inc. venture, operated two rolling mills. The Point Henry Rolling mill in Victoria and the Yennora rolling mill in N.S.W. had a combined rolling capacity of approx. 200,000 tonnes. Alcoa used 12,600 GWh or 15% of Victoria's electricity annually.[164] The company's Portland aluminium smelter in Victoria and bauxite mining and refining operations in Western Australia are still operating.[165]

Alcoa's Western Australian Wagerup plant has a troubled history in the context of claims that pollution from the plant has had an adverse impact on the health of members of the adjacent local community.[166][167][168] Besides Australia's heavy aluminum mining, Alcoa operates several refineries and production plants, as well as a can reclamation facility and power plants.[169]

In popular culture[edit]

Alcoa sponsored Edward R. Murrow's CBS program See It Now since 1951, at a weekly cost of about $50 thousand. This weekday night-time spot lasted until 1955, when Alcoa withdrew its support because of a controversial episode, although some argue it might have been for marketing reasons.[170] This sponsorship was later portrayed in George Clooney's Academy Award–nominated film Good Night, and Good Luck.[171][172]

During 1955-1957, NBC aired the anthology series titled The Alcoa Hour, for a total of 52 episodes. The show was sponsored by Alcoa and featured notable actors such as Ann Bancroft, Shelley Winters, Christopher Plummer and Lloyd Bridges.[170][173][174]

In 1976, the Alcoa Can't Wait ad campaign began airing across TV and radio, with what was termed a "very catchy jingle".[175] During 1981-1983 Alcoa sponsored the Fantastic Finishes, 30 second clips of game finishes during the final 2 minutes of NFL games on CBS and NBC.[174]


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