Regional

Alpart expands

Mined bauxite lands to be returned to communities

Monday, January 01, 2018



Nain, St Elizabeth— Environmental protection and the return of mined lands to people will be among the priorities for government as expansion and redevelopment of the JISCO Alpart alumina plant takes place over the next few years, says Mining Minister Mike Henry.

“At the Ministry of Transport and Mining we are taking the lead in ensuring that the environment is protected,” Henry told his audience at a ceremony on Friday marking the first shipment of alumina from Alpart's Port Kaiser since the refinery resumed production in mid-2017. The refinery closed down in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis of that time, resulting in plummeting metal prices even as the cost of oil as an energy source soared.

Henry said that “in the new year”, his ministry would be “intensifying our efforts to return more mined lands to the people. We will be intensifying our efforts to provide more relocated individuals with titles to their land, so that they can unlock the true value of their properties,” Henry added.

The slow pace of land titling has been a sore point for relocated landowners in Jamaica's bauxite mining areas over a period of many years.

Henry said the government would be expanding the “utilisation of mined lands to include research and development and the growing of plants with medicinal value inclusive of ganja”.

He said the government was “mindful of the impact of climate change and the importance of contributing to environmental protection”. That was the reason for the “tough decision that no mining will be allowed in the Cockpit Country”, Henry said.

He noted that there were enough reserves to “apportion to the mining companies in other areas that are not as sensitive”.

While the mining minister did not identify the location of the reserves for bauxite mining by JISCO Alpart, industry sources point to Essex Valley in St Elizabeth extending to the Santa Cruz Mountains, Manchester and sections of St Ann.

Alpart, acquired from Russian aluminum giant, UC Rusal by Chinese company JISCO (Jiuquan Iron and Steel (Group) Company) for US$299 million is to undergo massive expansion starting this year (2018). The 48-year-old refinery is to have its capacity expanded from 1.65 million tonnes of alumina annually, to two million tones. Plans are also in place for an additional refinery with a capacity of three million tonnes annually.

A 230 MGW power plant using liquefied natural gas (LNG) is to be built to replace an aging and creaky, oil-based power plant. Also, there are plans for an industrial park and economic zone at Nain producing light aluminum-based products.

Alumina, a granular material, is processed from raw bauxite ore, which is found in large quantities throughout central Jamaica. Aluminum - a light metal used in a range of products from food wrap, to kitchen utensils, cars and aeroplanes - is smelted from alumina.

Henry said the Jamaican Government's commitment to environmental protection was underlined by its “moving away from the use of heavy fuel oil to provide the energy needed to drive the (bauxite/alumina) industry and are embracing LNG as a cleaner fuel source”.

He applauded JISCO “who have caught on to the vision of the Government and have decided to use LNG in all their development plans to expand their operation at JISCO/Alpart”.

Henry and JISCO officials at Friday's ceremony also spoke of plans to train Jamaicans in China to take up management positions at JISCO Alpart.

Henry said 60 young Jamaicans would depart Jamaica for China at the end of February to early March for technical training.

“After successfully completing one-and-a-half years of training they will return from China to guaranteed positions with a clear career path to meet upper management positions,” he said.

Henry said Jamaicans made up the great majority of the more than 900 employees from top management to maintenance workers currently at JISCO Alpart.

Hundreds more would be employed in upcoming construction projects and at the completion of the initial phase of expansion and development starting this year (2018) the majority of an anticipated 2,000-strong work force will be Jamaican.

— Garfield Myers

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