Suriname bauxite company announces layoffs

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – Minister Jim Hok of Natural Resources (NH) is concerned about the layoffs announced by Suralco. “This is not only bad news for employment,” the minister says. The reason for the layoffs is the declining demand for aluminum. “It shows once again that the bauxite industry is near death,” a pessimistic Hok says.

“The developments show the international trend for this sector; globally the bauxite industry is going through some bad times and it is now up to the government to find a solution. If we fail, nobody can blame us that we haven’t at least tried.” Due to the declining demand and the increasing price for fuel oil, monthly production has dropped. It is not the first time Suralco announces cuts in production and staff. In January, parent company Alcoa announced a worldwide 12 percent cut in production capacity to lower expenditures. It was inevitable that this measure would also affect Suralco. Alcoa has criticized Suralco’s refinery as too expensive.

Murwin Leeflang, chairman of the workers union says the announcement has spread concern among workers. He has been notified by the company of its plans. The first to go will be the contractors, but it is almost certain that Suralco employees will be sacked as well. The Paranam Workers Union has also been notified. None of the workers’ organizations has expressed concern, though, arguing that they are confident Suralco will handle this issue to the satisfaction of all parties.

World market prices for aluminum dropped in 2011 causing a profit loss to Alcoa. The company recorded a net loss of US$ 191 million in the last quarter of 2011. Globally, aluminum production dropped by 12 percent. The lack of quality bauxite caused the company to import ore from Brazil. “When BHP Billiton decided to leave it dealt a devastating blow to the industry,” Hok says. BHP Billiton was Suralco’s partner and competitor, but in 2010, the company ceased all its production activities in Suriname. “Poor prospects in this sector make it difficult to find other investors.” Despite the dark clouds, however, both the government and Suralco seem to be engaged in a new start. Exploration of new mining areas and investments in new mines, including the Nassau area and the reopening of the Lelydorp mine are proof Suralco is continuing its operations.


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