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Since the Government came into power the Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications has, among other things, been focussing on the formation of new legislations and repositioning the local mining industry.
To this end the Telecommunications Policy is being refined, and the process to revise the Telecommunications Act, will follow the finalisation of the new Telecommunications Policy. The new Telecommunications Policy will guide the implementation of a single regulator.
Also, an initiative to replace the age-old statues under which electricity is produced and supplied, with modern legislation reflecting current best practices in the regulation of electricity providers, is currently underway.
To this end, the Office of Utilities and Regulations (OUR) and the Ministry are having ongoing dialogue, with the intention of finalising legislation during the next financial year.
In terms of the local mining industry, the State Minister in the Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications, Laurence Broderick, informed that at least two companies are seeking to expand their operations in light of increased usage of alumina in manufacturing and other activities globally.
The companies, West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco), and Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART), are currently conducting the necessary studies to guide possible expansion.
To this end, Mr. Broderick said the local companies are seeking to expand their operations, adding that Windalco’s and ALPART’s efforts should get off the ground, “once the energy issue is resolved.”
In addition, the State Minister said the Ministry is “actively” seeking to reposition the local Minerals Industry so as to take advantage of opportunities, while countering existing challenges.
Speaking in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate, at Gordon House in July, Mr. Broderick said that as part of the repositioning process, the bauxite and alumina sector, which underpins the local minerals industry, continues to “renew” itself.
“This process is informed by the vision of being involved in the higher levels of the value chain. This must include the possibility of participation in the smelting and extrusion of aluminium products,” he informed.
Also, the Mines and Geology Division, is actively engaged in discussions with a number of companies/individuals who have shown marked interest in mining ventures in the area of non-bauxite minerals. A number of these entities are engaged in exploration activities, in order to determine the quality and quantity of potential mineral deposits.
The Ministry has also held discussions with several mineral companies, including Lydford Mining Company, Caribbean Cement Company, and CEMEX. These entities are interested in investing in the Industrial Minerals Sector (limestone, cement, lime, and skid-resistant aggregates). The companies are either completing Environmental Impact Assessments (ETA’s), seeking clarification of Government’s policies, or access to port facilities so as to effect expansion plans.
In terms of a programme to modernise and increase the capacity of Jamaica’s local refinery, the financial advisors to the Refinery Upgrade Project, prepared a paper summarising the recommendations made in their financial feasibility report. A paper was submitted to the Board of Directors for consideration and a decision.
In relation to mined out lands, the Government has been applying stricter measures to ensure that mined-out lands are optimally restored. To this end, penalties are now being imposed on companies that fail to honour their obligations.
Meanwhile, as part of the Ministry’s efforts to declare the Cockpit Country a no-mining zone and encourage the development of environmentally-friendly attractions, a draft report has been prepared and consultants should be submitting a final draft by the end October 2008.
For the telecommunications sector, the Government has sought to ensure cheaper bandwidth costs to make access more affordable. To this end, bandwidth prices have dropped after the new Fibralink (FLOW) cable was established, and are now among the cheapest in the world. It is expected that the prices may be further reduced, due to the completion of the second of Fibralink submarine cable.
Also five of the island’s post offices were selected to introduce a range of commercial and e-transaction services under a new pilot initiative. The post offices are: Santa Cruz in St. Elizabeth; Christiana in Manchester; May Pen in Clarendon; Darliston in Westmoreland; and Port Antonio in Portland.
The Post and Telecommunications Department, also introduced a range of new commercial and agency services, aimed at leveraging customers’ demand for e-transaction services.
Meanwhile, the Ministry saw a changing of the guard when former Minister of National Security, Derrick Smith was appointed Minister of Mining and Telecommunications.