Government’s revenue as well as the local economy in St Catherine and St Ann would take a major hit should the WINDALCO alumina refinery at Ewarton be forced to close because of sanctions on its parent company.
West indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO) employs nearly 1,200 workers.
Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague told the House Tuesday (April 24) that Government is doing everything to safeguard the interests of the workers, the country’s earnings and the environment as WINDALCO faces an uncertain future. That has been brought on because UC Rusal the majority owner of WINDALCO has been hit by US Government Sanctions.
The sanctions are directed at Russian owners but those who trade with it may also be hit by secondary sanctions.
Minister Montague told the house yesterday that the situation with the company facing sanctions is still dynamic and Government has commenced talks with multiple groups and even the US Government to try to negate or minimize the effects on Jamaica and the Jamaican workers.
Montague said the Government’s 3 core priorities are “protecting our workers, the environment and the country’s revenue. “
He said WINDALCO employs some 1,200 workers with 630 directly employed to the mining and alumina operations and 450 as contractors. The others are employed in the farm operations, mainly with its 3,000 head of cattle producing milk and meat.
The WINDALCO plant accounts for just over 25 percent of the country’s revenue gained from the bauxite alumina sector. “Should the plant be closed, the loss of export earnings to the Jamaican economy would amount to approximately US$164 million per annum. That is roughly 27% of the Bauxite/Alumina Industry’s annual export earnings for 2017,” Mr Montague said.
Mr Montague said closure would hit the national revenues. Also, he said, it would impact the people in Ewarton through to Bog walk in St Catherine and as far as Moneague St Ann.
“Mr. Speaker, despite UC RUSAL’s intention to continue to operate in Jamaica as normal, the Ministry of Transport and Mining’s analyses indicate that normal operations will become increasingly difficult, especially if the company refuses to dilute its ownership, to conform with the sanctions, and various suppliers of goods and services elect to refuse its business out of fear of secondary sanctions from the USA.
“WINDALCO’s Ewarton refinery therefore faces the possibility of significant disruption in production given the pending difficulty and increased cost to source and import raw materials, especially flocculants, caustic soda, fuel and spare parts. However, it has indicated that it will, if necessary, import these products from Russia and other places. “
He said the Government was continuing to weigh its options and is seeking a bipartisan solution. He said in this regard he has invited Opposition Spokesman on Mining Phillip Paulwell to a meeting on the matter.