The Government has not ruled out taking over West Indies Alumina Company (WINDALCO) in order to protect the more than 1,200 workers at its Ewarton plant and prevent losses that its closure would mean for the country’s revenue.
But such a move – assuming control or acquiring controlling interest — would be a “last resort”, Minister of Mining and Transport Robert Montague has told the Parliament.
The options are under consideration because of the threats including closure faced by WINDALCO alumina refinery at Ewarton, St Catherine, following sanctions imposed by the U.S. Government on the Russian-owned UC Rusal the parent company for WINDALCO.
WINDALCO also has a plant at Kirkvine but that has been out of production since 2009. The other plant, at Ewarton accounted for US$164 Million, just over a quarter of the revenues from bauxite alumina industry earned last year. The company is also involved in beef and milk production from more than 3,000 head of cattle it maintains.
Mr Montague laid out in detail, to Parliament Tuesday, April 24, what the sanctions mean and how they have already been affecting the worldwide industry, aluminium markets and the companies involved. He spoke of his own efforts in holding talks with a variety of stakeholders local and international to shelter WINDALCO’s operations from likely negative fallout.
Mr Montague said the Ministry could not be complacent and was “taking decisive action to protect the interest of the workers, contractors, Jamaican suppliers, the environment and the GOJ.”
He said the following actions have been considered:
- Lobby the US to effect changes to the sanctions
- “Facilitate the introduction of local ownership including the implementation of an Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) at Ewarton. This could allow the workers and/or local investors to assume a controlling interest in the business and thereby avert the sanctions’ negative impacts.”
- “The GOJ assumes control of or a controlling interest in WINDALCO in the national interest. This is a last resort. However, it is a tool that the GOJ may be required to utilize.”
Mr. Montague told Parliament that the situation is “dynamic” and is being fully monitored and developments are being and will be analysed as they unfold.