Heat turns to Gladstone as Rio Tinto NT alumina site closes

RIO Tinto is trying to cut costs to keep shareholders happy, but the feeling of impending doom surrounds the future of Gladstone's alumina sites following the closure of the Northern Territory's alumina site.

With more than 1000 jobs lost at Gove, the heat is converging on Gladstone with a market that is squeezing the sites to improve.

Rio Tinto's head has praised the work done to keep costs down in the aluminium sector, but those at Queensland Alumina Ltd know only too well that part of the initial trade-off was 128 jobs lost last year.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh sent a message out this week that aluminium was continuing its transformation by reducing operating costs by more than $450 million to the end of October, compared to the previous year.

"Our results so far show we are taking decisive action, making tough decisions and advancing at pace," he said.

But Rio's alumina and bauxite head Pat Fiore said although QAL and the recently expanded Yarwun refinery were still making profits, they know the market is so tight they have to keep improving.

"It's a big challenge. You have to keep pushing your assets to make sure they stay down the cost curve and that's the only way to survive."