Citing safety and cost as reasons for the decision, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO) has decided to suspend alumina production at the Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart) plant in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
According to a media release from Jamaica’s Ministry of Transport and Mining, the plant will be scaled down over the course of the next two months, a period that will coincide with the second phase of a modernization and expansion program at the site.
“After due consideration the company decided that in light of worker safety and welfare, high cost of production, the prevailing low and falling price of alumina on the world market, and difficulties being faced sourcing parts for old equipment, the best option at this time is to temporarily suspend alumina production to ensure an efficient upgrade process.”
Though some workers will still stay on for maintenance purposes and to assist in modernization operations, hundreds more are expected to find themselves without jobs in the next several days and weeks.
JISCO did not say whether those laid off during the shutdown could expect to be re-hired, but the ministry noted in its press release that the three unions on site, specifically BITU, UCASE, and NWU, agreed to a period of wage restraint and “industrial peace.
“The modernisation programme means new investment and greater future job security for the people of Jamaica,” the ministry assured Jamaicans in the release.
The St. Elizabeth plant was reopend by JISCO in 2016 for US$299 million after sitting idle for the previous 8 years. The plant has a nameplate capacity of 1.65 million metric tons per annum at present, but JISCO’s modernization program is expected to boost that capacity to 2 million metric tons per annum of refined alumina.
Prior to the modernization program in question, JISCO has carried out US$300 million in initial rehabilitation and upgrades at the plant since its purchase.