Aluminum manufacturer

Alcoa

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received environmental clearance from the government in Western Australia to continue with its $1.5 billion plans to expand its Wagerup alumina plant.

The expansion, which entails improving Alcoa's existing refinery and building an additional production unit at the plant, is expected to increase the company's alumina output capacity to 4.7 million tons a year from its current capacity of 2.6 million tons.

During the past eight years, Alcoa has spent more than A$40 million on new technology at the refinery to ensure reduced emissions. The company plans to continue its collection of scientific data through the construction of additional meteorological and air-monitoring facilities at the refinery, Alcoa said.

"The Wagerup refinery already meets the most stringent health and environmental standards in the world and the extremely rigorous conditions placed on the project by the

Environmental Protection Agency provides confidence the expansion was safe and responsible," said Wayne Osborn, Alcoa of Australia's managing director.

In addition to adding to Alcoa's production capacity, the new plant will create more than 4,500 jobs, including 1,500 construction jobs and 260 permanent Alcoa positions.

Alcoa closed down 14 cents, or 0.5%, at $27.86 on Thursday.