Bauxite companies dread scarp metal plunderers
The high cost of electricity and declining prices on the world market are largely responsible for the mothballing of bauxite companies in Jamaica.
Equally, the facilities are preyed on daily by scrap-metal and other thieves who plunder their very infrastructure.
At the height of local bauxite production when companies fired on all cylinders, thieves were costing the facilities more than $200 million annually.
Diesel oil and gasolene in significant amounts, lengths of pipes, metals and other equipment would go missing in bulk.
Despite investment in security apparatus and services of more than $500 million the industry was still reeling from the thefts.
Even now with an almost standstill in mining activities, the companies are worried that with re-opening of the scrap-metal industry they will again be targeted.
Jamalco's corporate services manager Leo Lambert declined to put a figure to the cost of theft to that company, but said theft of the company's equipment is an ongoing problem.
"The theft has now moved to rail lines. We have lost several millions annually due to thefts of rail lines and metal pipes, but the real big-ticket item stolen is diesel fuel. Believe me, that runs us millions annually," Lambert told The Sunday Gleaner.
According to Lambert, despite the security efforts of the company, thieves have made off with hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel oil.
He said the company has worked closely with the police, who have given great support.
Public relations officer at Alpart, Julian Keane, said his company had minimal loss up to a year before it closed its doors in 2009.
"Our Resource Protection Department and management team established systems to control and account for the fuel purchased for our operations," said Keane.
"This system worked and continues to work for Alpart; therefore, we had no issues in regards to fuel loss prior to suspension of operations and during," he stated.
Between 2005 and 2009, the bauxite companies reported that theft totalling US$8.6 million had hit the industry and was threatening the viability of the sector.
Up to that time, companies were reported to have spent a combined US$500 million on security to stem the theft of the fuel from machinery and heavy-duty equipment.