JIS News

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, is to report on an energy solution to facilitate the re-opening of the Alpart and Kirkvine bauxite plants, when he speaks in the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate.

The Government has been engaged in months of intense negotiations with Russian-based aluminium company, UC Rusal, for the resumption of operations at the facilities, which closed in 2009.

Addressing a sitting of the Standing Finance Committee last week, Minister Paulwell said that the high cost of energy is a major issue affecting the re-opening of the plants.

While UC Rusal is investing US $100 million in a coal-fired electricity generating system for Ewarton, the Minister said “they are maintaining that gas is the energy solution for both ALPART and Kirkvine and I am to report on that fully in the Sectoral Debate”.

The Minister informed that the plants are being maintained, and are ready for operation. “In fact, I did a tour recently, just to satisfy my mind that the possibility exists for them to be re-opened within a short timeframe,” he stated.

A downturn in the global aluminium market forced UC Rusal to cease its operations at Kirkvine, Ewarton and Alpart in 2009. The Ewarton refinery, located in St. Catherine, was re-opened in July 2010 and the Government, in 2012, as able to secure a deal with UC Rusal, to maintain operations at the refinery and save the 600 local jobs at the facility.

As part of the agreement, Ewarton, as of 2015, will become a base producer of alumina for UC Rusal’s aluminium smelters overseas, with the Kirkvine and Alpart refineries, located in Manchester and St. Elizabeth, respectively, to be so designated, once they resume production.

This means that Jamaica will no longer be regarded as a “swing location” and so vulnerable for closure during times of recession.

UC Rusal entered Jamaica’s bauxite and alumina sector in 2007. The company has 93 per cent stake in WINDALCO, which owns and operates Ewarton Works and the Kirkvine Alumina Refinery, and has 100 per cent ownership of the Alpart refinery.

By Latonya Linon, JIS Reporter

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