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Cruise ship being readied for stint as home to Kitimat construction crews

Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter is set to undergo an upgrade, which will bring 600 construction workers to the small community.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

A Baltic Sea cruise ship is moored at a Vancouver dry dock as the vessel is fitted for a vital role in the modernization of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C.

A partnership that includes the Haisla Nation has leased the Silja Festival and is converting it to serve as housing for up to 600 construction workers.

Rental accommodation is scarce in the city in northwestern B.C., and the influx of workers has also pushed up housing prices for long-time residents.

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Officials say the ship will spend the next week at Vancouver's Seaspan drydock, then sail to Kitimat where it will be renamed the Delta Spirit Lodge.

Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) announced in 2011 that it would spend an additional US$2.7-billion to modernize the Kitimat smelter, ensuring completion of the overall $3.3-billion project later this year.

The project will increase the smelter's current aluminum production capacity by more than 48 per cent to approximately 420,000 tonnes per year.

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