MOSCOW, Sept 19 (Reuters) – The start of aluminium production at Russia’s Taishet aluminium smelter, a project of sanctions-hit Rusal, has been postponed until after 2020, Russia’s economy ministry said in materials prepared for a government meeting. Rusal, which was targeted by U.S. sanctions in April, previously planned to build the first line of the Siberian smelter, with an annual capacity of 430,000 tonnes, by 2020. “Construction of … Taishet smelter continues. However, the time frame for commissioning of aluminium production capacity is postponed until after 2020,” the ministry said. Rusal, the world’s No.2 aluminium producer after China’s Hongqiao, declined comment. Russian power company Rushydro, Rusal’s potential partner in the Taishet project, did not reply to a request for comment. Rushydro said previously that its plans to join the project had been complicated by the U.S. sanctions. The United States imposed sanctions on several Russian businessmen, including Rusal’s co-owner Oleg Deripaska, and some of the companies they control in April, in response to what it termed “malign activities” by Russia. Rusal started work on the Taishet project in 2006. The project was mothballed in 2009 due to weak aluminium prices, but dusted off last year as prices recovered. In April, Rushydro’s board approved the move to join the project with total investments seen at around $1 billion. Rusal’s other Siberian smelter – Boguchansk – plans to launch new capacity after expansion in 2019, the economy ministry added. Rusal plans to double Boguchansk’s capacity from the current 150,000 tonnes. Rusal’s Armenian foil-rolling plant, Armenal, has started cutting production due to the U.S. sanctions, a source at the plant and a source close to Rusal said on Tuesday.

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