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Search is on for new bauxite sources for Noranda

Published:Wednesday | December 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder

The Jamaican Government is said to be identifying new mining sites for licensing to the operators of Noranda Jamaica, to replace land now denied the bauxite company within the protected boundaries of the Cockpit Country.

"We are advised that the commissioner of mines and Jamaica Bauxite Institute are working towards the delivery to Noranda Bauxite of a mining lease that fulfils the GOJ's initial obligation to provide 25 years of economic and proximate bauxite reserves at a production rate of 5.2 million tonnes per year," said chief administrative officer of New Day Aluminium LLC, Anthony Laura.

"Those reserves are intended to satisfy our production needs during that 25-year period," Laura told Gleaner Business.

New Day is an affiliate of Dada LLC, which acquired a 49 per cent stake in St Ann Bauxite Limited in October 2016, making it a partner with the Government of Jamaica in the mining venture, which continues to operate as Noranda Jamaica Bauxite.

Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partnership holds Special Mining Lease No. 165, which encompasses 177 square kilometres (68 square miles) south of Brown's Town in St Ann; and Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence No. 578, covering 136 square kilometres (52 square miles) in western St Ann and Trelawny.

But Laura has refused to say what specific impacts the decision to expand the protected areas of the Cockpit has had on Noranda's licences.

"We will not comment on your characterisation of the company's mining and prospecting rights ... We remain confident that any impairment will be promptly addressed by the Government so that it can fulfil its commitment to provide the company with the requisite bauxite tonnage in accordance with the agreement between the parties," he said.

He also declined to specify the quantities of ore needed for future expansion, or to disclose the alternative mining sites desired by the company.

New Day secured the licences when it acquired interest in Noranda Jamaica from bankrupt company Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation for US$24.4 million in 2016. The company has an initial 25-year renewable lease with the Government of Jamaica for mining sites.

Under the agreement, the company either pays the Government US$1.50 per tonne of bauxite mined or a specified share of the profits from New Day's combined Jamaican and Gramercy operations in Louisiana, whichever is greater.

Earlier this year, Laura said Noranda was producing around 2.6 million tonnes of bauxite half its capacity of 5.2 million tonnes.

Calls and emails to Jamaica Bauxite Institute Chairman Parris Lyew Ayee and the Ministry of Transport & Mining on the alternative arrangements for Noranda were unanswered.