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JIS News

The new Russian owners of the Alpart and Windalco bauxite/alumina plants have opened a Kingston office and have announced expansion plans, stating that “Jamaica occupies a very important strategic place in UC Rusal’s operations.”
In an interview with JIS News, UC Rusal’s representative in Jamaica, Igor Dorofeev, reveals that the company will be moving Alpart’s alumina production from the current 1.6 million tonnes to 2 million tonnes a year, while also hiking Windalco’s production above the current 1.2 million tonnes per year level. Mr. Dorofeev says the fact that the company has opened an office in Jamaica, “means that we have long-standing plans for and commitment to Jamaica.” UC Rusal is now the world’s largest aluminum and alumina producer, having eclipsed Alcoa in March. The company operates in 17 countries and has a workforce of over 100,000. In April the company acquired Glencore’s stakes in both Alpart and Windalco, giving UC Rusal a 65 per cent equity in Alpart and a 93 per cent stake in Windalco. The rest is owned by the Jamaican Government. UC Rusal’s share of Jamaica’s alumina production, by 2006 figures, now constitute 52.4 per cent, and its alumina operations here represent 23 per cent of its global share.
The company has said there will be no changes in the management of the Alpart and Windalco operations and no negative effect on the labour force as a result of the ownership change. “What we are thinking about is expansion and more opportunities for the workers,” assures Mr. Dorofeev. Industry observers note the unusual move to actually open a corporate affairs office, in addition to the existing company offices for both Alpart and Windalco. Mr. Dorofeev explains that this indicates a lot about the management philosophy and approach of UC Rusal. “We leave the technical people to manage and do their jobs. Corporate affairs and public relations are a different matter. When you are in production your head is in a different space. You don’t want to worry about anything else. We see our relationship with our workers, the unions, the community and the Government as being very important and deserving of special attention and focus, so we have opened an office to ensure that our relationship management is in tact,” he says.
The company representative says the managers will manage the plant and the operations, “but someone has to have overall responsibility for the critical interfacing with the stakeholders.”
Mr. Dorofeev says UC Rusal will “augment and strengthen” the existing social programmes of the two companies and work closely with the community groups. “This will be an important part of my work here,” he emphasizes, noting that, “our investment will not be successful and our production will not be maximized if we don’t have good relations with the community and our workers.”
He stresses that the company wants workers to have a sense of belonging. “Most of these workers are from the community, and when you help the community, this helps to build the bond between you and your workers and it makes them know you care. This feeling is very important in expanding production,” he adds. He says the company is known for its strong corporate social responsibility and that it will take that same philosophy here.
A major area of focus he has already identified is education. He says the company plans to have persons from the surrounding bauxite communities trained in Russia, so that they can come back and work with the plants. “We want to train them up to the university level, give them diplomas and degrees so that Jamaicans can have the management positions at the plants here. We don’t intend to fill the management positions with expatriates. We want to develop indigenous Jamaican talent,” he adds.
Asked about UC Rusal’s attitude to trade unions, the company representative says, “we plan to work very closely with the unions. We see the unions as part of the team. You can’t expand production without them. We have to work with them to solve problems”.
Mr. Dorofeev says UC Rusal has had a pleasant investment experience in Jamaica, and he has praises for the country’s investment promotion agency, Jamaica Trade and Invest, formerly JAMPRO. “They are an excellent agency. They have done a terrific job. We have received a tremendous amount of help from them in terms of facilitation. I would have a lot of problems without them,” he notes. He also has high praise for the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, and for its Chairman, Dr. Carlton Davis and Executive Director, Parris Lyew-Ayee.
“We are here for the long haul and we are totally committed to Jamaica,” Mr. Dorofeev says. The Jamaican bauxite/alumina industry is the third highest earner of foreign exchange behind remittances and tourism, accounting for over $1 billion in annual gross earnings. Last year, the industry experienced its highest production level in 30 years. Already for the first quarter, the industry has continued its upward trend compared to the similar period last year. Earnings this year are projected at $1.3 billion.