Vietnam's first alumina refinery would start producing in November, after several delays, and sell an expected 50,000 tons this year directly to clients without any tenders, the company operating the plant said on Friday.
Alumina output at the $460 million Tan Rai plant would rise to 350,000 tons next year, around half its projected annual capacity, said Chief Executive Officer Le Minh Chuan of Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group, adding that no tenders had been planned yet.
"Vinacomin will give priority to the clients who are committed to signing long-term contracts to buy alumina," Chuan said in a written reply to Reuters.
In late August, a Vinacomin manager with direct knowledge of the tenders said the firm had invited various companies to join a bidding and would award the product to those who pay the best price.
Vinacomin and China's Yunnan Metallurgical Group (YMG) have a 30-year agreement under which the Vietnamese firm would sell 600,000-900,000 tons of alumina a year to Yunnan Metallurgical to feed its smelter Yunnan Aluminium Industry Co Ltd .
"YMG, or any other clients willing to buy alumina, has to negotiate directly with the group," Chuan said.
He did not name potential buyers or give any reason for a low output in 2012, as the refinery has an annual capacity of 600,000 tons of alumina, a white powder made from bauxite ore and used for producing aluminium.
The refinery was initially slated to start production in February and export alumina in March, but those plans had been delayed and it was due to turn out its first product on Sept. 20, Vinacomin and the Vietnam News Agency have said.
The Vietnam News Agency has attributed the cause of the delay to adverse weather, power shortages and slow equipment delivery.
The Tan Rai bauxite-alumina complex is built in the central highland province of Lam Dong. Vinacomin, which is also Vietnam's top coal producer, has been developing Nhan Co alumina project in the neighboring province of Dak Nong, with projected initial output of 600,000 tons.
It has awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contracts for both the Tan Rai and Nhan Co complexes to China Aluminum International Engineering Co.
Vietnam's mostly untouched bauxite ore reserves are estimated at between 5.6 billion and 8.3 billion tons, making it the world's third-largest after Guinea and Australia.