Rio Tinto Yarwun.
Rio Tinto Yarwun.

BUSINESS MILESTONE: Yarwun celebrates 15 years

THE Canterbury Bulldogs held up the premiership trophy, Casey Donovan won Australian Idol and John Howard was in his eighth year as Australia's Prime Minister.

It was 2004 and Gladstone's industrial landscape was dramatically changing with the opening of Rio Tinto Yarwun's alumina refinery.

This week the site is celebrating 15 years of operation.

Its first shipment of 14,270 tonnes left Gladstone Harbour on November 18, 2004. It was bound for China on a ship called Black Forest.

Since then, more than 30 million tonnes of alumina has been sent from Yarwun around Australia and abroad to be turned into aluminium.

General manager Mark Gilmore said he was thrilled to celebrate the milestone.

"We are a world-class asset with a top team that uses industry-leading technologies and practices," Mr Gilmore said.

As one of the youngest of Gladstone's refineries and major industries, the plant features innovations, Mr Gilmore said, that made it more energy efficient.

In 2012 the company completed an expansion that more than doubled its capacity.

The expansion included construction of a 160MW cogeneration facility that reduces greenhouse gas intensity, harnesses heat to create steam that would otherwise be wasted and feeds surplus, low-emission electricity back into the Queensland grid.

"We are committed to investing in the region," Mr Gilmore said.

Rio Tinto Yarwun laboratory team leader Vivian Frew has worked at the refinery for 15 years.
Rio Tinto Yarwun laboratory team leader Vivian Frew has worked at the refinery for 15 years.

"In the past 15 years, we have spent $1.6 billion with local suppliers, paid $1.2 billion in employee salaries, invested $6.5 million in the community and provided opportunities for 200 apprentices and trainees."

Laboratory team leader Vivian Frew is one of 27 Yarwun employees to celebrate 15 years-or-more of service.

"My favourite memories at Yarwun are of the people I've been fortunate to work with," Ms Frew said.

"I've had great friendships here.

"Working for Rio Tinto has provided me with many rewarding opportunities.

"Last year I was asked to work in Dubai for six weeks to help train Emirate Global Aluminium's new laboratory team for their refinery start up."

Mr Gilmore said one of the company's key achievements was its talented people.

"I look forward to many more years of celebrating Rio Tinto Yarwun's success in Gladstone," he said.