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Fire, explosion rock aluminum smelter in Bécancour


April 18, 2019
By The Canadian Press

April 18, 2019, Bécancour, Que. - A fire broke out at the ABI aluminum plant in Bécancour Wednesday morning, where a lockout has been raging for more than 15 months.

City spokesperson Marie-Michèle Barrette said an explosion preceded the fire “in the foundry section” of the plant and the fire department “was still in exploration mode” to ensure the safety of the premises in the early afternoon.

In Quebec, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity Jean Boulet confirmed there were no injuries. “A tank exploded,” he said, adding that “the situation is totally under control.

“The cause of this explosion is not known at this time,” the minister added.

The smelter has been operated by management personnel since1,000 workers were locked out in January 2018.

In recent communications between the FTQ-affiliated union, which represents the locked-out workers, and the management, the union had indicated that executives were starting to burn out. They lack the manpower to perform regular tasks, although only one-sixth of the usual production is currently being done.

Asked whether the origin of th fire was suspicious, the minister replied: “I have no indication that suggests it was.”

As for the city of Bécancour, Barrette stressed that “we can not say the severity of the fire inside, in terms of damage, but there were no injuries.”