JAMAICA should get a clear indication of Russian aluminium giant UC Rusal’s plans for its local operations when a high-level team from Moscow arrives next month to discuss the situation.
The visit of the UC Rusal team is expected to resolve differences between the company and the Jamaican Government over whether or not it plans to close its Ewarton (Windalco) plant at Ewarton in St Catherine.
“I will be approaching these discussions with a clear mandate, to act decisively in bringing resolution to all outstanding issues,” minister of science, technology, energy, and mining Phillip Paulwell assured the House of Representatives, yesterday, after making the announcement.
The controversy over Ewarton was triggered by Paulwell’s statement to Parliament on July 10 that UC Rusal would be closing the plant by October, threatening the jobs of some 600 employees. He also informed Parliament that Government’s agreement to the company’s request for a one-year waiver from the bauxite levy, with respect to Ewarton, in return for the implementation of short-term projects, was never executed by UC Rusal.
The closure of the Ewarton refinery would mean that all three UC Rusal alumina refineries in Jamaica would be non-operational, with Kirkvine and Alpart having been closed since 2009.
Paulwell said he was verbally informed on July 6 by UC Rusal that they had taken the decision to close the plant for one year, due to the significant downturn in the bauxite-alumina sector. But, in a report a day later, UC Rusal denied the closure.
“The information about Ewarton’s closing in October this year does not correspond to the reality,” a UC Rusal spokeswoman in Russia said. The company claimed it is considering curtailing operations at some facilities, but that no decision would be made before September.
UC Rusal is the world’s largest producer of aluminium and alumina. It was established in March 2007 with the merging of the assets of three companies: RUSAL, previously the third-largest global aluminium company; SUAL, one of the world’s top 10 players in the aluminium business; and the alumina assets of Glencore (Switzerland).