Berbice bauxite operations were given away to RUSAL

Dear Editor,

Having read the article `Brassington defends Rusal bauxite deal’ (SN 14th May, 2018) it is incumbent to make known the undermentioned facts which would aid in putting context to statements  made by Winston Brassington, former Head of the Privatisation Unit:-

i.  The reported 19-man committee of stakeholders that supposedly was to guide decision-making on the way forward on the bauxite industry was cosmetic. Decisions on this industry, including the workers’ welfare, were made and implemented even before the said committee completed its work;

ii. As it relates to the Linden Mining Enterprise (LINMINE), the bauxite reserves together with the plant were all sold to Cambior for the price of US$1.00;

iii. Globally natural resources reserves remain the property of the State.  In putting our bauxite reserves into the sale to Cambior it carried up the value of LINMINE. When Cambior placed LINMINE on the market, which included Block 37-the largest proven resource in the location- it brought the company a windfall profit. (The APNU+AFC government must revisit the issue on ownership of natural resources);

iv. The management of the Bau-xite Industry Development Company (BIDCO) invited the Head of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute to advise on the way forward as to how Guyana should treat with its reserves and other bauxite related resources.

Arising from this engagement, a recommendation was put forward that all bauxite reserves and surveys be put under BIDCO and whenever any company needs to acquire and commence operation in any area, an application be made to BIDCO who will consider same, determine availability and under what conditions. This recommendation was disregarded by the Government in its determination on the future of bauxite;

v.  The Opposition, under the leadership of Desmond Hoyte, was represented by Patrick DeFreitas on the privatisation of LINMINE. DeFreitas objected to a number of issues, among them was the inclusion of the bauxite reserves in the privatisation deal. This led to him being thrown off the committee under the guise that the Government could not sustain the cost of his presence;

vi. The statement that only RUSAL was interested in investing in Berbice is untrue. The employees of the Berbice Mining Enterprise (BERMINE) had formed a company and made a specific bid for BERMINE. The Government never responded to this, not even by acknowledgement much less engagement. This bid was placed into the box at the Privatisation Unit by Keith Payne, the employees’ company secretary, who was accompanied by me.

It was after this bid was made then President Bharrat Jagdeo visited Everton and subsequently the Kwakwani mines, where workers were offered redundancy payment and house lots (which many never received) in order to pave the way for the assets of BERMINE to be included into the Aroaima operations which were taken over by RUSAL;

vii. There is agreement with Brassington that RUSAL did not bid for the Berbice operations. In fact, these operations were given away to RUSAL in preference to the local workers who set up a company to take over BERMINE;

viii.   Brassington’s use of the argument that the decision to give the Berbice operations over to RUSAL was influenced by socio- economic considerations must not ignore the foregoing equally as the undermentioned:

a. Every tonne of bauxite produced by the state-owned industry was sold. In fact, the state-owned companies have never been able to produce enough to meet market demands. The argument where emphasis is being placed that the market was difficult for the companies is deceptive, for even the low grade bauxite had a market;

b.  The rejection by government to entertain local ideas, includes allowing the workers to invest their Pension Plan, then worth in excess of G$2.5 Billion (the single largest pool of money owned by African labour). This Plan at the behest of Govern-ment was broken up, leaving the workers at pensionable age without a pension, and their socio-economic circumstances worse off;

c.  The promise by the Jagdeo government to make Linden, Ituni and Kwakwani the Industrial Corridor for Guyana, a new economy after bauxite, never materialised for want of the fact that it did not move beyond a speech;

d.   The issue of subsidised utilities must not ignore that electricity and water were deferred wages negotiated for by the unions, and that the Steam Plant that provided cheap and reliable electricity, its turbine was taken away from Linden and placed at Versailles, West Bank Demerara.

The state of bauxite, RUSAL’s role and presence in Guyana, Brassington’s role as Head of the Privatisation Unit, the PPP/C Government’s, and the socio-economic impact on the workers and committees affected must factor in the aforesaid as we seek understanding of the industry and decisions made pertaining to it. Where errors were made, maturity requires acknowledgement, moving to correct, and seeking not to repeat them.

Yours faithfully,

Lincoln Lewis

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