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Gov't concerned about continued closure of Alpart/Kirkvine

Published:Friday | June 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

REPRESENTATIVES OF Russian company, UC Rusal, which owns bauxite operations in Jamaica, will be returning to Jamaica by month end for a follow-up meeting with Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell.

The minister, speaking in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, said the Government is deeply concerned about the continued closure of both the Alpart and Kirkvine plants.

"They came in May and during that discussion, with the insistence by the Government that these plants cannot continue in their current state, the shareholders have agreed to return to Jamaica during the last week of this month because they know, based on what we have put to them, that we cannot continue delay without a firm written agreement signed between both parties as to the date of agreement of those plants," the energy minister said.

The Alpart and Kirkvine plants were closed along with the Ewarton plant in 2009 at the height of the global economic recession. The Ewarton plant has since gone back into operation.

Paulwell's threats

From as far back at last year, Paulwell has been threatening UC Rusal that it would lose its licence if it fails to resume mining operations. Paulwell has said the Government would continue to insist that UC Rusal provide a clear timeline as to when ALPART and Kirkvine will reopen.

"They know that their licences will not be tenable unless we finalise a day for reopening, so all parties are aware that this is a fundamental issue that has to be settled," Paulwell has said.

In October of 2012, the Government entered into a Bauxite Levy Concession Agreement to avoid the closure of the Ewarton bauxite plant in St Catherine and 600 workers being sent home.

During the period of the levy concession, Ewarton is required to maintain the current staff level as well as its production capacity of 300,000 tonnes per annum.

Paulwell said in Parliament on Wednesday that the UC Rusal representatives have said that if they were given a similar concession at Kirkvine, the plant would still be operating. But Audley Shaw, who was finance minister at the time of the closure, said the claim is "absolutely not true". "They did not ask for it," he said.