Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
UC Rusal to fire up Ewarton with coal plant
A CLOUD of uncertainty which was hanging over the 600 jobs at the Ewarton bauxite plant in St Catherine was lifted yesterday with the announcement that the Russian-based aluminium producer, UC Rusal, will be investing US$100 million (J$9 billion) in the facility.
The investment will fund the establishment of a coal-fired electricity generating plant at Ewarton with construction set to begin next year and earmarked for completion in 2015.
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell yesterday announced that the Government has signed a concessionary agreement to waive the bauxite levy on the operations at the company's Ewarton plant for a year.
The concession takes effect from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013.
During the period of the concession, it has been agreed by the Government and UC Rusal that the employment level at the plant will be maintained at the current 600 local jobs.
The terms of the accord also state that over the one-year concession, the company will maintain the level of production at the refinery. At present, the company is operating at 300,000 metric tons per annum, representing half its total capacity.
Meanwhile, during the construction phase of the coal-fired electricity-generating plant, UC Rusal is expected to provide employment for 800 persons, and at the end of the period the refinery will return to full production and employment.
The billion-dollar investment in the Ewarton facility will provide a 30-megawatt capacity to run the bauxite plant.
In a statement to the House, Paulwell told his colleague legislators that the administration had secured a written commitment from UC Rusal that its three plants in Jamaica would, over time, be designated base locations for the UC Rusal smelting operations.
The mining minister pointed out that no agreement has been reached with the company in relation to the company's other two plants - Kirkvine and Alpart.
He said negotiations regarding these two bauxite plants were earmarked for completion at the end of November 2012.
"During this period, the parties will finalise start-up dates with the appropriate energy solutions for both Kirkvine and Alpart.
"The Government has given its support to the company to pursue energy options that accord with our National Energy Policy and local environmental standards," Paulwell explained.
Paulwell also announced that Cabinet has authorised negotiations for the sale of the Government's seven per cent shares in Windalco. He said these negotiations would be completed in November this year.