Hundreds rehired as Jamaica bauxite plant reopens

(Jamaica Gleaner) More than 600 people are to get direct employment while hundreds more will benefit indirectly as the Windalco bauxite plant resumes full operation in Ewarton, St Catherine.

Approximately 500 people are already working at the plant which had its official reopening on Thursday.

More than 95 per cent of that number were employees who had been sent home when Windalco closed its doors over a year ago.

“We are pleased to restart RUSAL’s Jamaican operations. They are an important part of the bauxite and alumina industry, which plays a fundamental economic and social role in the country,” Yakov Itskov, deputy CEO of international alumina business at UC RUSAL, declared yesterday.

“RUSAL is committed to continuing and developing its operations in Jamaica. This restart at Ewarton has been made possible because of the strong and constructive support of the Jamaican Government, our contractors and our employees, who worked hard to make the plant economically viable,” Itskov added.

The Windalco plant was closed last year due to the global recession which threatened the financial viability of UC RUSAL. This was compounded by the sharp fall in the price of bauxite on the world market.

But since then, there have been positive trends in the global aluminium market, while the Jamaican Government has offered several concessions to RUSAL to get the plant up and running.

In addition, RUSAL has taken action to ensure that the operation restarts with an enhanced structure and production process, considerably lower cash operating costs and improved efficiency.

According to the company: “The cost of bauxite mining has been reduced twice and (we have) also decreased Ewarton’s maintenance costs.”

The reopening was good news for Energy Minister James Robertson, who argued that this was the first step in the revitalisation of RUSAL’s operations in Jamaica.

“The Government is extremely pleased … . We must commend the company which worked with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the commissioner of mines to ensure an orderly closure of the plant, proper moth-balling, allowing for a quick restart, and maintaining links with its workforce and the community,” Robertson said.

He noted that the reopening of the Ewarton plant would not mean the end of the challenges facing the local bauxite sector, which came to a near standstill last year.

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