Resuscitation of the local bauxite industry is on track, with the restart of operations at Windalco’s Kirkvine plant in Manchester, set for July 1 this year.
Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. James Robertson made the announcement in the House of Representatives, on February 15.
The revitalisation of the Kirkvine operations brings with it more than 1,000 jobs, and follows the restart of Windalco’s Ewarton plant in St. Catherine last July.
“The planned restart of the Kirkvine Works Plant will see a massive investment not yet quantified by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and Jamaica Bauxite Mining. A total of one thousand jobs, many of them medium and high end, will come on stream in the areas of engineering, mining, hauling, management and so on. The multiplier effect to the people of Manchester and surrounding parishes is even more significant,” Mr. Robertson told the House.
He pointed out that the total capacity of Kirkvine is some 600,000 tonnes of alumina per year, while the production of the Kirkvine Works Plant is planned to be approximately 252,000 tonnes per year.
The Kirkvine operations were temporarily suspended in April 2009, due to cost-cutting measures caused by the global economic crisis, and the devastating effect on the bauxite alumina sector worldwide.
“During the period in which operations were suspended, Rusal undertook measures to ensure that when market conditions became favourable, the Kirkvine plant would come back on line with increased efficiencies and competitiveness. This include optimising the facility’s structure and production processes, reducing operating costs and making plant operations more efficient,” Mr. Robertson explained.
The Minister cautioned that the planned restart is contingent on approval by international lenders, further discussions by UC Rusal and its partners, and extensive government of Jamaica support.
He said the government must take a number of steps, including: addressing the possible temporary lifting of the bauxite levy for Windalco; resolving issues pertaining to the US$18 million debt owed by Jamaica Bauxite Mining to Windalco as a result of old supply contracts; rehabilitating railroad tracks from Port Esquivel to Kirkvine; and resolving the sale of seven per cent of shares in Windalco owned by Jamaica Bauxite Mining along with old supply contracts with Glencore.
Mr. Robertson said the government must also provide assistance in power projects for Windalco plants, including the leasing of lands along railroad tracks for growing biofuel; Research and Development sharing; licences; carbon credits and others; collaborate with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on Port Esquivel’s dredging environmental issues; assist in hiring local mining contractors for Kirkvine mines, and co-operate in sending five Jamaican students annually to study at Russian Universities at Rusal’s expense.
The Minister emphasised that the government remains committed to ensuring that the country’s best interest is advanced, and “will continue to work untiringly towards the full resuscitation of the bauxite and alumina sector”.
CONTACT: ALPHEA SAUNDERS