Thursday 28th April 2005


T&T smelter spells expansion in Jamaica

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Aerial of the Alcoa-operated Portland aluminium smelter in Australia. This smelter, built 20 years ago, operates successfully close to local community and neighbouring farmlands.

By Curtis Williams

Should the proposed aluminum smelter come to T&T it would mean an automatic capital investment in Jamaica, according to that country’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Technology Phillip Paulwell.

In an interview here in Washington DC, Paulwell said the government of Jamaica was awaiting word from T&T on whether the plant will come to fruition since it would mean that Alcoa’s alumina operations in Jamaica will have to be further expanded.

“We are waiting on word from the government of T&T because, as you know, the proposal is if an aluminum plant is constructed in T&T then the alumina will come in part from Jamaica and that will require further investment in capacity,” Paulwell said.

Alcoa, which has proposed the aluminium smelter, also has major alumina operations in Jamaica.

Alumina is used to make aluminium which is then further processed into several products including vehicle parts, household items and eve avionic parts.

The Government and Alcoa Inc Pittsburgh, the world’s largest aluminium company, signed a memorandum of understanding one year ago for the construction of a low-emission, environmentally friendly aluminium smelter plant.

The new smelter plant and related facilities (including a power plant, a new anode plant and downstream, opportunities) are projected to cost in excess of US$1 billion.

BpTT has guaranteed the Government that the plant will have the use of a specified amount of free gas for a 15-year period. This natural gas will then be converted into low-cost electricity for the smelter.

Alcoa will have 60 per cent ownership in the plant and the remaining 40 per cent will be sold to investors by the National Gas Company’s subsidiary, the National Energy Company of T&T. The aluminium, which will be processed at the plant, will be imported from Suriname and Jamaica.

Sources on the Cabinet energy sub-committee have confirmed that as of Monday the sub-committee had not received a final proposal from Alcoa. They say it is clear that Alcoa has invested a lot of time and effort in the project and they expect that the company will eventually come to the Government with their proposals which would likely contain requests from the state.

The sources said they expected this to occur within the next two months.

Paulwell also revealed that Jamaica will spend an estimated US$100 million to immediately upgrade its refinery while it will also be working on a project which would see a total of US$400 million being spent on improving its refining capacity.

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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