* Family-owned Cevital says awaiting government approval
* Plant has planned capacity of 1.5 mln tonnes per year
ALGIERS, Dec 3 (Reuters)
Algeria's largest private company, Cevital, is awaiting government approval to build a $7 billion aluminium plant with annual capacity of 1.5 million tonnes, its chief executive said in an interview.
Issad Rebrab said the project was part of the family-owned firm's expansion strategy in Algeria, which is trying to develop domestic industry and reduce its reliance on oil and gas exports.
"We have submitted details of the project to the authorities. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for authorisation from the government," Rebrab told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference in the Algerian capital.
He did not provide details on how the project would be financed or whether any of the plant's output would be destined for export.
Cevital has investments in sectors ranging from sugar refining and car imports to vegetable oil and hypermarkets.
Rebrab also told Reuters this week about plans to build a $3.8 billion steel complex [ID:nAHM242766] and to double its sugar exports to 1 million tonnes.[ID:nLDE6B0207]
Metals companies are looking to Algeria because of its good infrastructure, abundant energy resources and proximity to European markets, but some investors say its business climate is challenging.
Rebrab said Cevital was planning to partner with Rio Tinto Alcan, a unit of global miner Rio Tinto (RIO.L: Quote) (RIO.AX: Quote), for the aluminium project.
Asked for a comment, a Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman said the firm was assessing a smelter project in Algeria but that at this stage it was exploring the opportunity only with the Algerian authorities.
"As we are in the early stages of evaluating this opportunity, it would be inappropriate to speculate about possible investment and production details," the spokesman said in an emailed comment. (Additional reporting by Eric Onstad in London; Editing by Christian Lowe and Jane Baird)