Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Peter Espeut’s errors

Published:Monday | November 18, 2019 | 12:13 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

In the Gleaner of Friday, November 16, 2019, Mr Peter Espeut, in his column: ‘A Jamaican Brexit’, made the following erroneous statement: “Wesley Hughes, formerly head of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, proposed closing all the mines and processing plants, except those associated with JAMALCO in Clarendon.”

First, I was never the head of Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI). At the event that Mr Espeut reported on, I was correctly introduced as a former director of economics and statistics of the JBI.

More importantly, I never proposed the closure of all bauxite “mines and processing plants”. That is completely false.

When asked about my views on the long-term prospects of the local bauxite/alumina industry, I pointed out that the local alumina industry has fairly high overall production costs; suffering from relatively low labour productivity and high energy cost. I also did comment broadly on each of the alumina plants.

1. First, I stated that unless the Chinese owners of the Alpart refinery made significant investment to transform that plant, particularly to improve energy efficiency, it may never reopen.

BEST PROSPECTS

2. Second, I said that it is unlikely the UC Rusal alumina plant at Kirkvine would ever be reopened; and that the Ewarton alumina refinery, given its high production cost, would likely only remain open if it can continue to sell its output to the very low energy cost aluminium smelter in Siberia, Russia.

3. Third, I said that with the improvements in energy costs from using LNG, the Alcoa refinery probably has the best prospects in the medium to long term.

I made absolutely no comment on the prospect of the bauxite-mining operations of Noranda in St Ann.

WESLEY HUGHES, PhD