To those who worked there, it was known as “The Can”.
This was, of course, a nickname for the Alcan aluminium smelter at Kurri Kurri.
The smelter closed four years ago under the then ownership of Norsk Hydro, costing the Hunter Region hundreds of jobs.
The smelter, dubbed by some as the “BHP of the Coalfields”, became another statistic in the decline of manufacturing in first-world countries.
On Sunday, the fourth annual reunion will be held for the smelter’s former workers.
It’s a chance to have a chat about old times – to reminisce and have a laugh.
Paul O’Brien worked at the smelter for 20 years. He was the last worker to walk out of the place.
He recalled the near silence of walking around the plant “with everything turned off”.
Water could be heard dripping and wind blowing leaves down the road, like tumbleweeds.
“It was a thriving, bustling workplace that employed close to 1100 people in its heyday,” Paul said.
“That meant 1100 families. Not to mention there were twice as many contractors associated with the plant.
“The employment fed a lot of the Kurri community and the Coalfields area.”
By all reports, the smelter was a good but tough place to work.
Making aluminium with furnaces was no picnic. It was hot, it was sweaty. It was hard yakka.
But over 42 years of operating, the smelter became an institution.
“It formed many strong bonds and mateships,” Paul said.
“Although the guys did used to complain about the work. But work is work.”
Of the hundreds of workers who lost their jobs, some are still out of work.
“Some are working at other places, some are doing casual work – a day here and a day there,” Paul said.
Some enjoy being semi-retired, but others would love to be working more and earning more money for their families.
As for the reunion, Paul says it’s an important event for the people of the Coalfields.
It will be held at Kurri Kurri Bowling Club at 11am.