Minister says Noranda deal to be inked today
Transport and Mining Minister Mike Henry says the Government is going ahead with plans to sign an agreement today with New Day, a company that acquired the 49 per cent stake in the Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners.
The planned signing comes despite demands by the parliamentary Opposition for the administration to furnish particulars about the company before inking the deal.
The Opposition yesterday called for a halt to the signing of the binding letter of intent today until the Parliament can be provided with information about the company.
However, there appear to be mixed signals from the Government as the Ministry of Transport and Mining issued a note to the media indicating that the signing ceremony for the takeover of Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners, scheduled for today at the ministry, had been called off.
After the note was issued, The Gleaner asked Henry if the signing would take place today, and he answered in the affirmative.
Before the motion of adjournment in the House of Representatives yesterday, Leader of Government Business Derrick Smith said Henry would address concerns and questions about the company in a second statement to Parliament today.
At the same time, as part of the agreement to be signed with New Day, the Government has made a far-reaching decision to scrap the decades-old bauxite levy arrangement by replacing it with a proposed profit-sharing agreement, a move which the parliamentary Opposition said it could not support, noting that Jamaica would be giving up a safe source of revenue to an accord that is shrouded in uncertainty.
Under the proposed new agreement, the Government and New Day will enter into a 25-year partnership in the first instance.
Henry said that, under the new arrangement, both the Government and New Day would "benefit from any financial recovery in the performance of the mining and refining operations being acquired".
In addition, Henry said the terms of the agreement would ensure that the Government recoup the unpaid 2014 and 2015 bauxite levy, which amounts to US$12.6 million.
However, Paulwell expressed dissatisfaction with aspects of the joint-venture arrangement and quizzed Henry about the company and its principals.
He wanted his counterpart to tell parliamentarians about New Day, a question which the minister said he would respond to on Wednesday.
The Opposition spokesman, who is also the leader of opposition business in the House, insisted that the minister provide information on the company, noting that it was unacceptable that the administration was taking steps to sign a major agreement with New Day without the Parliament knowing anything about the entity.