JIS News

The long whispered rebirth of Jamaica’s bauxite/alumina sector became evident on July 22, as the Ewarton Alumina Refinery in St. Catherine was officially reopened.
The plant is expected to start up with the proapproximately 321,000 tonnes, of its total capacity of approximately 625,000 tonnes of alumina, this year. It will employ 629 workers, raising employment hopes at Rusal’s WINDALCO and Alpart plants, which have seperated almost 2,000 employees over the past two years.
It is majority owned by the world’s largest aluminium producer, Russia’s United Company Rusal/ UC Rusal, with the Jamaican Government as the minority shareholder.
Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. James Robertson, told the reopening ceremony, at the Ewarton Sports Club, that it represented a significant rebirth for the industry and would have a tremendous impact on the Jamaican economy.
Mr. Robertson said the plant impact positively on foreign exchange earnings, as well as Government revenues. In addition to the 629 employees, many more Jamaicans reap indirect benefits from the resumption.
“With the restart, the retooling of these plants, we are looking at least US$1/2 billion worth of investments,” he predicted.
“The figure I have received from the JBI (Jamaica Bauxite Institute) is about US$60 million minimum, just for being able to restart; that’s without any major investments on the energy side,” he added.
He said that after fruitful negotiations between UC Rusal and the Jamaican Government, and the gradual improvement in the bauxite/alumina global market, the plant is being restarted as a first step in the revitalisation of RUSAL’s Jamaican operations.
Mr. Robertson said that the reopening was also of significant importance to communities in close proximity to the plant, the mines and the port, as well as the service providers. At the height of production, the company heavily supported various community projects, including skills training, health, education and social investment.
“They have relied on the operations for employment and the sustainability of the many small businesses that rely on the patronage of the company and its workforce,” Mr. Robertson also noted. He said these included restaurants, groceries and bars, taxi and bus operators, variety stores, hardware stores and small tradespersons.
He pointed out, however, that the Government was mindful of the challenges the industry continues to face. He said the Government has developed a clearly defined policy framework for revitalising the industry, which is aimed at increasing efficiency, especially in energy, expanding output and significantly enhancing all round competitiveness.
Mr. Robertson also observed that over the past two and a half years, Jamaica had passed through a very difficult period in terms of bauxite/alumina production and export, including the closure of three of four refineries between March and May 2009, regarded as among the worst periods in the annals of the world aluminum and local bauxite/alumina industry.
He said the eonomy had lost well over US$1 billion since the closure of the plants.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, said he has been assured that community projects would resume shortly.
“We have emphasised that training and retraining has started, this is because of the emphasis the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Mining and other ministries will be putting on productivity this year,” he noted.
Minister of Transport and Works, Hon. Michael Henry, while welcoming the opening of the plant, said he looked forward to further investments and development in the country’s railway systems, which included rail transportation service for Ewarton’s bauxite.
“Let the work begin and let the trains roll,” he declared.
Commissioned in 1959, the Ewarton Refinery was the second alumina refinery built in Jamaica.

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