FRANCE breathed a sigh of relief at the weekend after Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto said it had received a binding offer for its French aluminium plant, in a deal that - if approved - would save more than 500 jobs.
Unions feared Rio Tinto's aluminium plant in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Alps would close after it was put up for sale last year.
Rio Tinto, the world's third-largest miner, received a firm offer for the plant and associated smelter from Germany's Trimet aluminium in a deal backed by the French state and energy group EDF, which is planning to take a minority stake. For Rio Tinto, the disposal is part of a strategy to reduce its aluminium activities.
France, which is battling recession and rising unemployment, has seen many smelters and metals production sites close in the past decade as global mining groups transferred their production to lower-cost regions.