BAUXITE and alumina export volumes are expected to be similar to last-year levels, but they were respectively down from last year, by 10.5 per cent and 12.4 per cent, up to May.
Production issues at Jamalco in the first few months of the year negatively impacted its output, which, according to Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) data, resulted in a 20.9 per cent year over year decline in alumina exports over the first five months of 2012.
“Stability has now been restored to the refinery and we expect to significantly make up the production deficit during the second half of the year,” said Jamalco’s manager of corporate services and government affairs Leo Lambert.
The fall-off at Jamalco was partially offset by Windalco’s alumina export volumes, which from January to May were 9.7 per cent higher than the comparative period in 2011.
The decline in the export of the crude ore from the sole bauxite seller in Jamaica, Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners (NJBP) in St Ann, reflected the timing of its customers’ bauxite requirements, according to NJBP president Pansy Johnson.
“Full year production for 2012 is forecasted to be similar to that of 2011,” she said. “This will therefore see higher shipment volumes in the last six months of the year.”
Meanwhile, Noranda’s plans to proceed with the next phase of its expansion were approved. “Timing of the start of the project will depend on the availability of the required specialised equipment and the dredging method that will be employed,” Johnson told the Jamaica Observer. “There are a limited number of companies and limited units that will be able to handle this project.”
She said the project should start somewhere between fourth quarter of 2012 and the second quarter of 2013, but the head of the bauxite mining company believes they are still on target to meet an investment commitment running into 2014.
Executives of Noranda Aluminium (which owns 49 per cent of NJBP) told the Observer in 2010 that it plans to invest US$150 million in the operation between 2010 and 2014.
The bauxite company completed a US$8-million ($685-million) port expansion, which raised its capacity from 4.5 million tonnes to 5.4 million tonnes a year, in the first quarter of 2011.
During the first five months of 2012, Noranda exported 2.4 million tonnes of bauxite compared to 2.7 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year, according to PAJ statistics.