MINISTER of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell confirmed in Parliament yesterday that Russian firm UC Rusal will be closing its Ewarton (Windalco) plant by October, threatening the jobs of some 600 employees.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Paulwell admitted that despite the Government's decision to accept UC Rusal's request for a waiver from the bauxite levy with respect to Ewarton — for one year, commencing June 1, in return for the implementation of short-term projects — the agreement was never executed.
"Further, despite the efforts of the Government to mitigate the adverse situation, the indications are that the continued operation of the Ewarton plant is in doubt," he told the House.
"I was verbally informed on July 6, 2012 that UC Rusal has taken the decision to close the Ewarton plant later this year for one year, even though the full bauxite levy relief was granted," he explained.
Paulwell said that this was a great disappointment to the country, particularly the surrounding communities of St Catherine. He added that this would mean that all three Rusal Alumina refineries in Jamaica would be non-operational, with Kirkvine and Alpart having been closed since 2009.
He blamed the significant downturn in the bauxite/alumina sector on challenges being experienced in the global economy.
Responding to questions from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, the minister said that about 600 persons are employed at Ewarton, and that the deadline for the closure is October.
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).