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Russians to reopen Windalco in June

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

A month after the jobs of 762 employees from Windalco's Kirkvine and Ewarton facilities were made redundant, Minister of Energy and Mining James Robertson is confirming plans are under way to reopen at least one of the plants.

Robertson said he could not provide The Gleaner with an exact date, but that he was confident Windalco would reopen its doors this year.

A release from UC RUSAL, the world's largest aluminium producer, said the Russian company plans on reopening the Ewarton Works in June, subject to approval from international lenders.

"We have a lot of good news about other developments in the bauxite industry but they have not reached a point where they are out of the pipeline," Robertson said, noting he was unable to provide any more information at this time.

A good sign

The St Catherine facility closed in 2009 as part of UC RUSAL's cost-reduction measures. However, according to the release, the overseas company estimates that the Ewarton plant will produce approximately 321,000 tonnes of alumina this year. Its total capacity is 650,000 tonnes.

Economist Dennis Morrison said this latest development is a sign that the global economy is getting better.

"Things are improving in the aluminium industry. The demand for aluminium is driven by the way the overall economy is per-forming," he said.

Morrison also outlined other developments that mark an improvement in Jamaica's economy.

"Production will resume, bauxite mining and aluminium production will increase this year. Some workers will be re-engaged and it will generate activity," he said.

"Recovery is under way and I think the opening of the Ewarton facility shows this."

UC RUSAL's CEO Oleg Deripaska said the company kept track of opportunities in order to improve the Ewarton plant's efficiency.

Deripaska also said improving market conditions, along with the "favourable business environ-ment", in Jamaica are instrumental in Ewarton Works' development.