LOWER prices and higher costs translated into a modest loss for Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners.
The St Ann-based company's parent reported a US$200,000 loss from its bauxite segment last year, following profits of US$18.5 million in 2011, and US$23.8 million the year before.
The mining company sold less volume — its sales to Sherwin Alumina fell from 2.5 million in 2011 to 2.3 million last year, while volumes to its own alumina refinery fell from 2.64 million tonnes to 2.45 million tonnes over the comparative periods.
But "lower realised prices resulted in a decrease in external sales of $11.8 million", according to Noranda Aluminium.
External sale of bauxite US$51 million in 2012 compared to US$68 million in 2011, suggesting an 18 per cent decline in the price of the raw ore.
What's more, recovery in global prices for aluminium — which bauxite and alumina prices are pegged to — is expected to be slow.
"It is not going to get back to levels which will make alumina companies comfortable," president of Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners Pansy Johnson told the Business Observer in January. She expects that that might happen next year, but for companies to survive 2013 "they will have to manage their cash really well".
Sherwin took approximately 47 per cent of the bauxite export from St Ann, pursuant to a contract that ran through 2012. Noranda entered a new contract with Sherwin that extends through 2017.
Total cost of sales in the Bauxite segment was US$124.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2012 compared to US$128.6 million during the year before.
"The decrease in cost of sales was primarily due to a decrease in sales volume, partially offset by increases in reclamation costs, operating supplies, demurrage, and compensation costs," said the Aluminium producers.
Noranda plans to extend its harbour dredging project, which consists principally of harbour dredging and focuses on further reducing costs and providing greater flexibility for shipping activities at its Discovery Bay pier, from US$11 million to US$20 million.
The increase in capital spending is related to an expanded scope of work, which includes improvements in railing infrastructure used in its bauxite mining operation.
"We expect to substantially complete the project by the end of 2013," said the company.
The project follows on a US$6-million investment that raised the pier's capacity from 4.5 million tonnes to 5.4 million tonnes a year in early 2011.
— Camilo Thame