ALCOA threatens production cut, layoffs in Suriname bauxite sector
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) – Suriname President Desi Bouterse says the Aluminum Company of America, (ALCOA) plans to cut production at Suralco to a third and lay off 1, 000 workers including 800 contractors.
Bouterse told Parliament that the issue is of "a national matter of concern for which a joint solution must be found".
ALCOA’s Suralco has been active in Suriname since 1916, mining bauxite to feed the Paranam refinery. With an output of some 2.2 million metric tons per year, the bauxite mining operation stood as Suriname’s main earner.
A top executive of ALCOA’s Latin America office visited Suriname last week to lay out the company’s plans. The company said if it is to maintain a presence in Suriname, it would have to reduce its production to 360,000 tons of refined bauxite annually.
Bouterse told Parliament that Suralco also wants to pay less for the crude oil it acquires from state oil company Staatsolie.
He said the company also wants Government to pay more for electricity from the Afobaka hydro energy plant. The company built the dam in the 1960’s to generate electricity for the Paranam refinery; the surplus of the electricity generated is sold to Government.
Bouterse said “this problem” has the attention of his administration, but that it was also an issue that requires input from all members of Parliament.
He said that government is also acquiring the services from local and international consultants.
“The community of Suriname has for almost 100 years bent over backwards to maintain this historic bauxite sector. Suriname has never reneged on its contract with Suralco,” Bouterse said.
But one opposition legislator, Radjkoemar Randjietsingh of the Nieuw Front party has called for the resignation of the Natural Resources Minister.
“Minister Jim Hok should step down. The fact that Suralco is threatening to cut its output is the result of this government’s failures,” said Randjietsingh.
National Assembly speaker Jennifer Geerlings-Simons has announced the establishment of a Commission comprising legislators to look into the matter.