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Government, Opposition express concern over bauxite price fall

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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The Jamaican government says it is holding talks with stakeholders within the vital bauxite industry with the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) expressing concern at the falling prices on the global market for the commodity.

Mining Minister Robert Montague, in a statement said that his ministry continues to have dialogue with the stakeholders amid global concerns over the price of bauxite/alumina.

He said meetings have already been held with representatives from the West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco), owned by United Company (UC) Rusal of Russia, and that talks were also held with representatives of the Clarendon Alumina Company and Noranda Bauxite Company.

In the statement, Montague is quoted as saying that the Jamaica authorities are monitoring the industry in an effort to allay fears of any possible fallout and provide the requisite support aimed at protecting the welfare of workers and the livelihood of communities who depend on the industry.

Noting that the discussions remain at a delicate stage, Montague said that Jamaica's interest is his first priority and that he will do whatever it takes to ensure that the country is protected.

“The ministry continues to crave the understanding and support of the people while they treat with this situation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Opposition spokesman on mining, Phillip Paulwell, has warned of the possible closure of bauxite plants here as he expressed concern that aluminium prices are already showing signs of an impending global economic recession.

Paulwell said in a radio interview on Friday that aluminium prices have fallen from an estimated US$2,200 per tonne to US$1,700 per tonne and in his opinion, this is approaching the benchmark for declaring a recession.

“When it gets to around 15-14 hundred (dollars), you're really in a recession again, and as we have seen in the past, the Jamaican factories are the first to close when recession occurs because we are regarded as swing locations,” he said, noting that alumina prices have moved from US$500 per tonne to US$290.

Paulwell, a former energy and mining minister, said more than three years agocompanies required at least US$300 per tonne to break even, therefore, this is a sign companies could already be losing money.

He is urging the Government to be proactive to ensure local jobs are not lost.


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