Ewarton Bauxite plant to close in October
The Ewarton Bauxite plant in St. Catherine is expected to close by October this year with a likely loss of 600 jobs.
Minister of Mining Phillip Paulwell told the House this afternoon (July 10) that the Russian company that operates the plant has verbally indicated it will close the refinery that exports alumina made from bauxite.
The closure is expected to be for a year.
Mr. Paulwell said he viewed the news with great disappointment.
Minister Paulwell told the House that the government had offered U C Rusal a full waiver of the bauxite levy, or the tax accompanying each tonne of ore mined.
The waiver was for the period June 1, this year.
He said the company had not accepted the waiver and indicated that it would close the plant instead.
Further, the Minister says U C Rusal had said it would not move to reopen the two other plants it owns in Jamaica, Kirkvine in Manchester and Alpart in St. Elizabeth, which have been closed since 2009.
Mr. Paulwell told the House that he would be examining the legislation regarding the operation of U C Rusal in Jamaica and would advise Parliament when he makes his presentation on in the Sectoral Debate, July 24.
Mr. Paulwell says he did not accept U C Rusal’s reason for not pushing ahead with production in Jamaica, including re-opening Alpart.
He said the company had indicated the state of the world economy as the reason for their response in Jamaica.
He says the imperative now is to get Alpart restarted and to consider alternatives including other producers to get alumina production going in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has expressed worry and shock over the announcement that the bauxite alumina plant at Ewarton St. Catherine will be closed in another three months.
Bauxite alumina is the largest earner of foreign exchange among Jamaican merchandise exports.
The shutdown will close U C Russal’s third plant, that together account for 75 % of the bauxite alumina export sector.
After the statement by Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw said the news was shocking.
He sought to get further details of the effects on the economy, particularly on balance of payment but Mr. Paulwell said he did not have those figures at hand.
In response to Mr. Shaw's questions, Mr. Paulwell suggested that he would be examining alternatives outside of the present ownership structure.
Meantime, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said he was very worried by the announcement, saying it would have an effect on the communities and asked for its effects on the economy.
He asked for the likely employment impact and Mr. Paulwell said there were some 600 Jamaican workers at the plant in Ewarton.
And, Opposition Spokesman on Industry and Commerce, Karl Samuda asked several questions.
He reminded the Minister that in a Committee of Parliament, Mr. Paulwell had said there was a statement that he would make about the industry and had indicated that the news would be positive.
Mr. Pauwell said he had reason to be optimistic at the time.
He said he was still very optimistic and the government would have to consider alternatives and would examine the regulations to see what options were available.