Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Trinidad looks downstream to revive aluminium project

Published:Friday | March 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley.

The Trinidad & Tobago government, led by Dr Keith Rowley, says it is "actively pursuing" a key aspect of the original aluminium smelter plant project that was shut down by the former administration seven years ago.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert told legislators that the Rowley administration would be reviving the plan but this time, instead of a smelter, the proposed Alutech plant would be used to produce "high-quality aluminium downstream products, including pressed aluminium coils, billets and wheel rims".

He told legislators on Tuesday that the proposed smelter would have initially produced the hot metal for the downstream aluminium products. But now, the plan is to import ingots for the products to be manufactured.

"The Alutech plant will be the first of its kind in the Caribbean and will provide the opportunity to further diversify the Trinidad & Tobago economy," Imbert said, adding that the new company will also play "a key role in generating revenue, earning foreign exchange and creating employment".

In 2010, the then People's Partnership government led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar pulled the plug on the controversial Alutrint smelter project, saying it had no intention of continuing with the construction of the multimillion-dollar plant that had been started under the Patrick Manning administration.

People's Partnership, originally, an amalgam of five opposition parties and trade unions, had supported calls by environmental groups for the project to be scrapped.

Last December, Rowley told legislators that despite the shutdown, "there still remains opportunities for an aluminium downstream industry" to be developed in Trinidad.

At Tuesday's parliamentary session, Imbert was dismissive of a question raised by leader of the opposition business, Wade Mark, on how the new venture would survive, given that Trinidad recently announced a severe shortage of natural gas.

"The fact of the matter is, these are activities that are products produced by electricity; they are not produced by gas," the finance minister said. "In the case of the smelter, natural gas was a key component of the process. In the case of these products, electricity is the main source of energy," he added.