The first cargo of alumina produced by the Alpart refinery in St. Elizabeth under its new Chinese owners was shipped from Port Kaiser at Alligator Pond on Friday (December 29).
The shipment, which totalled 35,000 tonnes, is destined for China. It is the first following the resumption of operations in June after acquisition of the plant by China’s State-owned Jiuquan Iron & Steel Group (JISCO), and comes after a nine-year hiatus.
JISCO paid US$299 million to acquire Alpart and spent more than US$60 million to facilitate its reopening.
Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Mike Henry, who was on hand for the departure of the cargo, said that JISCO, in partnership with the workers of St. Elizabeth and Manchester, has enabled the bauxite industry in that region of the country to become “like a Phoenix rising from the ashes”.
“The bauxite industry is experiencing a rebirth, the likes of which we have never seen before in Jamaica,” he added.
The Minister said the restart of operations at Alpart is a partnership between the Government, the people of Jamaica and JISCO, which sees the Government providing the legislative and policy platform and the Jamaican employees providing the requisite services and expertise to make the investment worthwhile.
He said an “investment of this magnitude” should be fostered by “an enviable level of understanding” and recommended that “industrial differences and concerns be dealt with openly and frankly at the table of discussions”.
“I want an industrial relations climate that will be supportive and not disruptive, while standing up for that which is right. I expect that for harmony, all ideas must contend. But, I equally expect that the partnership I am proposing must embrace the tenets of fair play and justice for all the parties involved,” he added.
The Minister stressed the seriousness with which the Government takes the conservation of the environment, evident in the prohibiting of mining in ecologically sensitive areas such as the Cockpit Country and its thrust to move away from heavy fuel oil and the embracing of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is a cleaner source of fuel.
He commended the Chinese investors, whom he said “have caught on to the vision of the Government” and have decided to use LNG in all their development plans to expand their operations at Alpart.
“We are playing our part to ensure that unprecedented growth is achieved,” he said, noting that mined-out lands are being restored for economic and social development initiatives.
He cited plans to use such lands for the growing of medicinal plants, including marijuana.
Minister Henry further indicated that the provision of lands with accompanying titles to residents who have been relocated from bauxite-rich properties will be intensified in 2018, so that “they can unlock the true value of their properties”.
By: Claudia Gardner