Country Poised For Increase In Aluminia Production – PM


Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, has said that the country was poised for expansion of the bauxite/aluminia industry with the advantage of increased production of the higher value-added alumina.
The expansion effort is expected to increase production levels and boost economic activity in Jamaica, Mr. Patterson said, while making his contribution to the 2004/05 Budget Debate in Gordon House today.
The growth in production is to be facilitated by a US$690 million expansion project at JAMALCO to increase the plant’s capacity by 1.4 million tonnes, and generate over US$300 million of additional foreign exchange earnings per annum. The expansion project, is expected to be completed in 2007, and during construction, over 2,500 jobs will be created.
The construction activity will require skilled labour and to this end, JAMALCO will be establishing a modern, state-of-the-art training facility at Breadnut Valley, its former mining headquarters, for training of technicians and artisans. This will be done in partnership with the HEART Trust/NTA apprenticeship scheme.
Already, the country has seen increase in production figures, following the reform of the fiscal arrangements, which saw the JAMALCO plant expanding its capacity by 250,000 tonnes while Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) increased its capacity by 200,000 tonnes.
Mr. Patterson noted that during the first quarter of 2004, there was a 12.1 per cent increase in aluminia production and projections for the year were that output would increase to 4.2 million tones, up from 3.8 million tonnes last year. In addition, gross foreign exchange earnings are expected to increase by more than 20 per cent to US$950 million in 2004.
Rebutting Opposition Leader Edward Sega’s recent comparison of the present bauxite performance to that of 1974, Mr. Patterson stated that in earlier times, “we were exporting more bauxite than alumina. We are now exporting more alumina than bauxite, so we are getting the benefit of the higher value added”. It is projected that in 2004, 72 per cent of an expected total bauxite production of 14.5 million tonnes would be processed locally into alumina. He also pointed out that the alumina production this year was projected at 4.2 million tonnes, or 38.1 per cent higher than in 1974.
Prime Minister Patterson reminded that the fact that Jamaica now ranked fourth among the major bauxite-producing countries was simply reflecting the reality that Australia, Brazil and Guinea possessed larger reserves.
Conceding that Jamaica ranked behind Brazil, Australia and Guinea, Mr. Patterson said that the fact was that there were environmental considerations that had to be taken into account and, “both Australia and Brazil possess energy resources, a critical ingredient in the economics of the aluminum industry, which therefore gives them a competitive advantage”, the Prime Minister stated.

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