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Principals of Noranda to negotiate with Shaw

Published:Tuesday | March 29, 2016 | 8:46 PMEdmond Campbell

Principals of Noranda Bauxite Company will today meet with Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw and Transport and Energy Minister Mike Henry to discuss a proposal the company has placed on the table for the Government to consider.

Shaw, who made the disclosure in Parliament yesterday, was responding to a caution from his opposition counterpart, Dr Peter Phillips, who urged the Government not to give up rights which have been received through arbitration.

Last year, a tribunal set up to hear a dispute between the Government and Noranda Bauxite Company handed down a decision in favour of the State.

Noranda had challenged the Government’s decision not to extend a concession granted in 2009 under the Bauxite Levy Act.

Under the agreement, Noranda did not have to pay the full bauxite levy. But in December 2014, it expired.

In its decision, the Tribunal agreed with the Government that it did not surrender its rights to apply the full bauxite levy to Noranda after the concession expired a year ago.

Shaw told parliamentarians yesterday that Noranda had directed an appeal to the Andrew Holness-led administration “and in the spirit of natural justice we have to hear what they have to say”.

He said the principals of the company had already met with the prime minister.

“They have put a specific set of proposals on the table and we intend to sit with the company because this is not a matter of black and white,” said Shaw, who argued that there were more than 2,000 people in St Ann where the company operates, whose livelihoods depend on Noranda’s continued operation.

“We cannot treat this in any frivolous, arbitrary or capricious manner. As government we take the matter seriously.”

“We owe it not just the company but the citizens of Jamaica and the St Ann community to have a fair diligent hearing and Cabinet with appropriate legal advice will make its final consideration.”

However, Phillips said while he did not object to negotiation with the company, he was against any negotiation that would give up rights which have been received through arbitration.

“I am against a negotiation which by sleight of hand would take away the earnings due to the country and provided to a company who had already declared bankruptcy and whose survival is by no means certain, and where we might be foregoing rights and revenues which other companies may be willing to pay while preserving the jobs.”