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Paulwell says future of bauxite, alumina sector promising

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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OPPOSITION spokesman on mining Phillip Paulwell says the bauxite and alumina sector remains positive, despite challenges, as the industry's future looks promising based on growing global demand.

He said that given these realities, it is alarming that Jamaica is foregoing the levy on bauxite at the point when the country should be ready to reap its benefits.

“We are adamant that this diminishing resource must be managed in the best interest of the Jamaican people,” he said on Tuesday while making his contribution to the 2019/20 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.

Paulwell also expressed satisfaction that the Alpart plant has again commenced operations, under the management of Chinese firm, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO).

“I'm pleased to see renewed life and energy in the towns surrounding the plant. I'm glad with the growing levels of employment and the many corporate contributions to the community. I'm happy for the sharing of technology and training of Jamaicans at Chinese universities. JISCO is indeed making a difference in the Jamaican economy; we are pleased that JISCO has honoured its commitments and I wish them well. We are looking forward to the expansion of the refinery and the installation of new energy system,” he said.

Meanwhile, Paulwell said with United States sanctions on Russian aluminium giant United Company (UC) Rusal, and by extension its Windalco plant, the company should now move to fulfil its undertaking to modernise operations and become a base location.

At the same time, he said he is alarmed at the deteriorating financial position of Clarendon Alumina Production (CAP), which he believes might be a result of escalating increase in the cost of production at the Jamalco alumina plant.

He said the plant has moved from a small operating profit in 2016/17 to losses last year, and another is likely for this year. He also questioned whether the challenges being faced by 55 per cent share partner Noble Group is affecting local operations.

“I urge proactivity, for the Government of Jamaica to assume greater responsibility to bring those costs down and to make CAP a profitable venture,” he said.

Commodities trader Noble, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, reported a net loss of close to US$5 billion in 2017, despite selling many of its assets in a bid to stay afloat. In October 2018, Noble filed for Chapter 15 protection with the US Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, seeking to establish arrangements with its creditors.

Turning to the issue of resettlement of bauxite lands, Paulwell said the ease with which citizens are displaced must be matched by ease of resettlement.

“It is not beyond us to find a solution to this vexed issue,” he stated, promising to establish a special regime to liberate mined-out bauxite lands for productive purposes, including agricultural production and housing, whenever the Opposition forms Government.


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