RusAl Starts Operating Nigeria Smelter

United Company RusAl, the world's largest producer of primary aluminum, has started operating the Alscon smelter in Nigeria, as it seeks to establish a full aluminum-production cycle in Africa.

Operations at the facility began after eight years of standstill, the company said in a statement Friday. The smelter should reach full capacity of 197,000 metric tons in 2010, according to the statement.

RusAl, controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, plans to spend $300 million on upgrading the Nigerian smelter and dredging the Imo River to improve access. The producer already mines bauxite and refines it into alumina, an intermediary material used for smelting aluminum, at a unit in Guinea.

The company is attaining its "strategic goal of creating a full production cycle" in western Africa with the smelter's start to operations, chief executive Alexander Bulygin said in the statement.

RusAl paid $250 million for a 77.5 percent stake in Alscon last February.