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Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. James Robertson, is expressing confidence that the tide is turning for the bauxite industry, as there is some indication of an upturn in the sector.
He was speaking against the background of the resumption of full work scheduled by December at St. Ann Bauxite Partners, Discovery Bay St. Ann. Operations there will take production to 4.2 million tonnes, up from three million tonnes, the company disclosed last week. The Government has 51 per cent shares in the company, while the remainder is owned by United States-based, Noranda Intermediate Holding Corporation.
“That would mean 110 shipments of bauxite out of Discovery Bay for the year. So that is a massive increase and a very positive sign for the workers. What it means to the sub-contractors, is immense,” Mr. Robertson remarked at a press conference at his Ministry, Trafalgar Road, Kingston on Thursday (September 10).
“It gives us hope, which is why we are going to be meeting and spending a lot of time with the Prime Minister and his energy and bauxite task force, to analyse what we are going to do with the other three plants,” Mr. Robertson said.
He explained that the production costs at the other three companies – Windalco, ALPART and Jamalco – fall into the bottom fourth quintile, in terms of their ability and the cost of production.
“That is something that we have to address. In addressing that, we are going to be looking at the cost of energy. The cost is approximately 30 per cent of the cost of running those plants and that is where we will be able to make the greatest difference,” Mr. Robertson said.
Meanwhile, the Mining Minister informed that he was scheduled to meet with the parent company for Windalco and Alpart, UC RusAl, on Thursday (September 10) to see what their ability will be to restart operations.
“The information I have is that (for) their lowest cost of production in those three plants, the market would have to go above US$2,300 per tonne for alumina for them to be able to start. At this time last week, it was at US$1900, which was a massive rebound from US$1,200, where the market was at (before). They would still be producing at a loss at this time, but we have to be prepared and be ready because, if the market is there and we can do anything to get the workers back to work, we have to make that effort,” Mr. Robertson said.
UCRusAl, the world’s largest alumina and aluminum producer, owns 93 percent of the plants at Ewarton in St. Catherine and Kirkvine in Manchester, which operate under the West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco) name. The Russian company also has 65 per cent holdings in Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) in St. Elizabeth
The Government continues to express its commitment to working with new and existing partners in the bauxite industry.

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