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Saudi Ma'aden, Alcoa start commercial ops at huge aluminium plant

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma'aden) said on Monday its joint aluminium smelter with U.S.-based Alcoa has started commercial operations.

The $10.8 billion aluminium plant at Ras al-Khair, on the Gulf coast of the kingdom, had experienced issues during the initial start-up phase last year when it had to shut one of its two smelting lines in October due to problems encountered during ramp-up.

The smelter has a production capacity of 740,000 tonnes a year of aluminium, with commercial operations to begin impacting Ma'aden's financials from the third quarter onwards, it said in a bourse filing.

The Saudi project is important to Alcoa, both because of its size and the fact it should be the facility with the lowest production costs in the world - important at a time when the industry pushes to cut expenses.

Alcoa owns 25 percent of the joint venture, with Ma'aden holding the balance.

(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by David French)