The country’s largest alumina plant is to be closed temporarily while the second phase of a modernization programme takes place.
Questions have been swirling in recent weeks about the future of the plant as demand for aluminum, made from alumina has fallen, and with it the price of the metal on international markets.
The specific date for closure and the length of time the plant will be done are not known. However, the Ministry of Mining and Transport says the second phase of the modernization and expansion programme is to commence at the JISCO/ALPART plant, at Nain in St Elizabeth, within the next thirty (30) to sixty (60) days.
The upgrade will result in a significantly more efficient plant with production capacity being increased from 1.65 million tonnes per year to 2 million tonnes per year, the Ministry says.
Since the refinery was acquired in 2016 by Jiquan Iron and Steel (Group) Company (JISCO) at a cost of US$299 million, rehabilitation and upgrades have been carried out at a cost of about US$300 million.
The Ministry says one of the principal objectives of the modernization programme to be conducted by JISCO is to lower the refinery’s high production cost and therefore to increase its competitiveness.
The Ministry said in a release that following discussions JISCO decided that in light of worker safety and welfare, high cost of production, the prevailing low and falling price of alumina on the world market, and difficulties being faced sourcing parts for old equipment, “the best option at this time is to temporarily suspend alumina production to ensure an efficient upgrade process.”
The Ministry says JISCO, a company wholly owned by Gansu Province in the People’s Republic of China, has given their long term commitment to the people and Government of Jamaica.