UC Rusal’s decision to close its bauxite plant in Ewarton, Jamaica, appears to have been influenced by the Jamaican government’s intention to revoke the special mining lease the Russian company currently has on two alumina plants at Alpart and Kirkvine.
The two plants have remained inactive for three years, according to the Jamaica Observer, which learned of the government’s position through a highly placed source.
During a July 6 meeting, Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell learned of UC Rusal’s intention to slash production at the Ewarton plant and possibly end operations for a year starting in October.
Paulwell had recently agreed to a 100 percent waiver of the bauxite levy for Rusal for one year. The value of the waiver was estimated at $11.38 million, the Jamaica Observer reports. The government also made other concessions for Rusal in order to keep the plant open with the agreement that the company would implement projects to improve efficiency.
Rusal claims that the information about Ewarton’s closing in October of this year “does not correspond to reality.” The Associated Press reports that the company acknowledged that it is considering curtailing operations at some facilities but that a decision won’t be made until September.
Paulwell told the Jamaica Observer that he was happy for Rusal’s change of heart and that he hopes the announcement was not a way of strong-arming the government.
“If that was the case, then I regard that as a despicable act,” Paulwell said, the Jamaica Observer reports. He also said he would summon Rusal’s Country Manager Igor Dorofeev to a meeting to clarify issues related to the future of operations at Ewarton.
Dorofeev indicated verbally that Rusal’s board of directors had not made a decision to close the plant. A statement issued by the company confirms that no decision had yet been made on the closure of Ewarton Works, according to the Jamaica Observer.
Paulwell, meanwhile, claims that the Rusal statement was contrary to what was communicated at their July 6 meeting. The minister additionally made comments regarding the closure of the Alpart and Kirkvine refineries, saying that they need to become operational. The plants have been closed since 2009.