Top Alumina Producer, UC Rusal, Says It is Staying


Russian alumina conglomerate, UC Rusal, which owns 52 per cent of local alumina production, has reaffirmed its commitment to continue operating in Jamaica, Minister of State in the Ministry of Energy and Mining, Hon. Laurence Broderick, has confirmed.
“They have successfully negotiated debt rescheduling arrangements with a consortium of Russian and western banks amounting to US$11.9 billion, out of a total debt of US$14.5 billion,” Mr. Broderick told the House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 21) as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate.
“We have been assured that the company is trying its best to resolve its debt situation, in a manner that will ensure its long term future and involve little or no disposal of existing assets,” he explained.
UC Rusal currently holds majority shares in West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO) which has plants at Ewarton, St. Catherine, and Kirkvine, Manchester, as well as ALPART (Alumina Partners), Nain, St. Elizabeth. This represents 23 percent of the company’s overall production output.
Mr. Broderick said that the issue of Rusal’s viability, in the face of the current global economic crisis, was of concern to the Ministry and, by extension, the administration.
He said that, through diplomatic channels and various meetings, the Ministry sought a clear indication from the company regarding its future in Jamaica.
“Despite the present difficulties relating to the global downturn in the aluminium industry and their own financial difficulties, UC Rusal has unequivocally asserted that they intend to remain in Jamaica for the long haul,” Mr. Broderick said.
Operations at the plants have been scaled down since April of this year, consequent on a fall in demand for alumina on the world market resulting from the global economic crisis.
Mr. Broderick informed the House that while UC Rusal takes the necessary steps to revive its operations, the Ministry was reviewing options within existing agreements with the Government, to ensure that the interests of Jamaica, the administration and workers in the sector are secured.
He also informed the House that a joint bauxite task force has been established, to closely monitor critical aspects of the closing down process within the local bauxite/alumina sector and the possible impact.
Noting concerns arising regarding the “proper” closure of the facilities, Mr. Broderick said the process was being undertaken at the directive of Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding whom, he said, had mandated that it be closely monitored.
Ministries and agencies comprising the task force include: the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); the National Lands Agency (NLA); Water Resources Authority (WRA); the Energy and Mining Ministry, inclusive of its Mines and Geology Division; and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI).
He said that, since May, the multi-agency group has been working in close collaboration with the bauxite and alumina companies “to ensure compliance with the agreed monitoring regime.”
The areas being monitored include: mothballing of the plants; environmental management; land rehabilitation; maintenance procedures; safety; land and reserve management; employee interests; industrial relations; and community outreach programmes.

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