30 years ago today, on 12 November 1979, Dubai Aluminium Company Limited (“DUBAL”) tapped its first metal – a moment that marked the birth of its core smelter operations and the company’s official inception. Established to aid in the diversification of the UAE economy by adding value to the country’s oil-rich mineral resources, the entirely state-owned enterprise is widely regarded as the industrial flagship of the UAE and is one of the largest non-oil contributors to Dubai’s economy.
Abdulla J M Kalban (President & CEO) reports that the company’s roots stem back to 22 May 1975, when the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (then Ruler of Dubai) signed a decree establishing DUBAL on a 480-hectare site 35 kilometres south-west of Dubai. Almost five months later, on 15 October 1975, Sheikh Rashid laid DUBAL’s foundation stone; and construction of the smelter complex began in May 1976.
“Commercial production of aluminium at DUBAL began in January 1980, the entire planned production volume of 135,000 metric tonnes per annum having been pre-sold in North America. The plant comprised 360 reduction cells in three potlines, a 504 MW power station and ancillary carbon, casthouse, port and other facilities,” continues Kalban. “Through a series of successive expansion projects in the intervening years, DUBAL has evolved into the world’s largest modern aluminium smelter with a captive power station. Currently, our major facilities comprise a 960,000 metric tonne-per-annum primary aluminium smelter, a 2,350 megawatt power station (at 30°C), a large carbon plant, three casthouses, a 30-million-gallon-per-day water desalination plant, laboratories, port and storage facilities.”
There are now 1,565 fully operational cells in DUBAL’s eight potlines. Exceptionally high purity of metal is maintained, with the standard purity cells delivering 99.913% and the high purity cells achieving up to 99.96% metal purity levels. The company can produce more than one million metric tonnes of finished aluminium products a year, in three main forms: foundry alloy for automotive applications; extrusion billet for construction, industrial and transportation purposes; and high purity aluminium for the electronics and aerospace industries.
DUBAL’s entire production is pre-sold to more than 300 customers in about 45 countries predominantly in the Far East, Europe, the ASEAN region, the Middle East and Mediterranean region, and North America. The company holds ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, ISO/IEC 27001, ISO/IEC 20000, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification; and has twice won the Dubai Quality Award in the Production and Manufacturing sector (1996 and 2000).
“Ranked in 2008 as the largest single-site smelter in the western world (third overall) and seventh-largest producer of primary aluminium in the world as a whole, DUBAL has set its sights on becoming the world’s fifth-largest producer of primary aluminium by 2015,” states Kalban. “With this in mind, we entered into a joint protocol in February 2006 with Mubadala Development Company, a wholly-owned investment vehicle of the government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The resulting joint venture aims to become one of the largest primary producers of aluminium in the world by leveraging the synergy of our aluminium expertise and Abu Dhabi’s energy and financial resources.”
Good progress has already been made:
The first 700,000 metric tonne per annum phase in the two-phase green-field smelter development at Al Taweelah in Abu Dhabi, which will be the largest single site smelter in the world on completion, is on track for commissioning in April 2010.
A partnership has been entered into with Algerian state-owned oil and gas company Sonatrach for a proposed green-field smelter development in the Beni-Saf industrial zone.
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and Emaar, The Economic City regarding the development of a green-field aluminium smelter complex, in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Active investments are also being made to secure DUBAL’s requirements of alumina and other critical raw materials. With regards to alumina feedstock in particular, the company has to date engaged in four strategic upstream bauxite/alumina projects in Brazil, Cameroon, Republic of Guinea and India.
“By diligently partnering with the Dubai government over the years, DUBAL has also played a key role in the socio-economic development of the local community,” Kalban adds. “Over and above our substantial direct and indirect contributions to the economy, DUBAL actively support community-based initiatives that fulfil the UAE’s broader development goals. For example, we sponsor world-class sporting and industry events that showcase Dubai’s superb tourism and business infrastructure to international audiences while demonstrating the city’s innovative and cosmopolitan flair. Also, we prefer to support projects that enhance education so as to facilitate the effective nationalization of our business.”
In the summer of 1980 there were very few UAE nationals among DUBAL’s workforce of 1,386 employees. Today, employment is provided to more than 4,100 people, of whom approximately 24 per cent are UAE Nationals – a level far in excess of the Dubai industry average of 4 per cent nationalisation. Approximately 70 per cent of positions at senior management level are held by UAE Nationals.
The wealth of knowledge, skill and expertise within DUBAL’s multicultural workforce has provided both the foundation and the framework for success: they are truly the company’s most valuable asset. “From the outset, we have hand-picked the best talent available, then consciously facilitated personal and professional development through training while nurturing an environment conducive to retention,” Kalban explains. “It’s a strategy that has borne fruit: 24 per cent of our employees have served at DUBAL for ten to twenty years and 10 per cent boast service tenure of more than twenty years.”
This year, 48 employees celebrate 25 years’ service at DUBAL, bringing the total number of people to reach this milestone to 364. There are also 41 employees who celebrate 30 years’ service, coincident with the company’s 30th anniversary in 2009.
“The combination of a strong, internationally renowned brand; a forward-focused growth strategy; a heritage of producing premium quality, highest purity aluminium products; reliable adherence to delivery promises; ongoing investments in people; and a commitment to excellence-based partnerships have enabled DUBAL’s sustainable growth and longevity to date. Building on these essentials, the course of our company’s continued journey is certain to be paved with even greater successes,” concludes Kalban.” We nevertheless acknowledge that our company cannot succeed in isolation. Accordingly, DUBAL continues to place tremendous value on the role played by all stakeholders – especially our employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders and the communities where we operate. Our success is entirely inter-dependent on theirs. Together, we will continue to shine.”
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