NEW REVENUE STREAMS

Abu Dhabi 2019 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdulla Jassem bin Kalban, Managing Director & CEO of Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), on its expansion upstream, strategies to grow the sector, and sustainability initiatives.

 Abdulla Jassem bin Kalban
BIOGRAPHY
Abdulla Jassem bin Kalban has served as Managing Director & CEO of EGA since its formation through the merger of DUBAL and EMAL in 2014. He has been a board member of EGA since its incorporation and is a member of three board committees. He was appointed CEO of DUBAL in 2005 and President and CEO in 2008. In addition, he serves as Chairman of the Gulf Aluminium Council, Vice Chairman of the Federal Electricity & Water Authority, and board member of the International Aluminium Institute, Dubai International Financial Centre Investments, Dubai International Financial Centre Authority, and Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University. Kalban holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of New Haven, Connecticut.

EGA is expanding upstream and internationally into bauxite mining and alumina refining. What is the driver behind these strategic decisions?

Our decision to expand upstream and internationally was based on creating new revenue streams for EGA, while securing the natural resources the UAE's aluminum industry needs to grow. The UAE currently imports all the alumina we require. The alumina refinery we are building in Al Taweelah, Abu Dhabi, will be the UAE's first and will meet approximately 40% of our needs. Through our mining investment in the Republic of Guinea, we will have production of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is derived and the feedstock for alumina refineries. Guinea has over a quarter of the world's bauxite resources. Once fully operational, our mine will produce approximately 12 million tons of bauxite per year. Once both the bauxite mine and alumina refinery are fully operational, EGA will be an integrated upstream and midstream aluminum company—from mine to metal. As with most sectors, entering a new part of the value chain is challenging. But we have over 40 years of experience in developing substantial megaprojects; for example, our Al Taweelah smelter was the largest single-site smelter in the world when it was built. For these new projects, we relied on our previous experiences, providing training to our employees, and supplementing our team with experts from around the world.

Now that the UAE represents the fifth-largest aluminum-producing nation in the world, what key strategies should the public and private sectors look at to maintain and further grow the sector?

Aluminium is a growing sector in the UAE and we are proud to really be at the heart of it. Our growth over the last four decades has led to the development of a strong local downstream sector, making products using our metal. We sell more than 10% of our production locally, and there are now 26 downstream companies in the UAE. Some well-known global companies in various sectors including the automotive sector, use parts made in the UAE from UAE metal. The UAE's aluminum industry is the biggest employer amongst the country's energy-intensive industries, accounting for some 30,000 jobs. And our aluminum is the largest made-in-the-UAE export by value after oil and gas. Although our supply chain is global, we spend around USD1 billion a year on goods and services in the UAE to support our capital projects and operations, including on energy. This is about 40% of EGA's total spending. An effective, responsive and sustainable local supply chain is essential to the continued success of our business. The growth of the broader sector around us benefits us as a company. As a corporate citizen of the UAE, we are pleased that both our metal and the opportunities in our supply chain are contributing to economic diversification.

How can the UAE embrace recycled materials extracted from waste streams?

The UAE is already a diverse economy with many industries, and that means our country has various waste streams. At EGA, we have learned that industries must work together to unlock every potential opportunity in order to support even further diversification. That includes finding uses for waste. Almost seven years ago, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced UAE Vision 2021. This gave businesses a blueprint for reducing the impact of waste by aiming to balance sustainable development with the preservation of the environment, and it set targets for a leaner, greener nation. At EGA, we turned the waste challenge into an opportunity. We take waste material that we do not use ourselves and find others who have appropriate and environmentally friendly uses for it. We are turning waste into value, in a cleaner production system.