Alumina production to be suspended at JISCO/Alpart

Transport and Mining Minster Robert Montague
Transport and Mining Minster Robert Montague (Photo: JIS)

Operations at the Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO)/Alpart alumina refinery in Nain, St Elizabeth, are set to be suspended for up to two years to facilitate the plant’s modernisation and expansion.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 10, Transport and Mining Minister Robert Montague said the ministry’s technical team recommended several options to JISCO relating to operations, during the modernisation discussions.

He noted, however, that after careful consideration, the company decided that the best option at this time is to suspend alumina production and focus attention on a full-scale modernisation and expansion programme.

“To continue producing alumina at over US$480 per tonne is unviable.”

— Montague

Montague explained that the decision was arrived at after the consideration of various factors.

These, he said, include worker safety and welfare, the high cost of production and high levels of waste, noting that “to continue producing alumina at over US$480 per tonne is unviable.”

Other factors include the prevailing low and falling price of alumina on the world market, difficulties sourcing parts for old equipment, and discontinuation of the manufacturing of many of the parts and systems used by Alpart.

Montague said JISCO has indicated that this phase of Alpart’s development is slated to commence within the next 50 days.

“I wish to remind this House and the people of Jamaica that the modernisation and expansion programme will be one of the largest investments in the history of the country. Total investment is projected at US$1.1 billion when completed,” he stated.

The minister added that the planned upgrade will result in a significantly more efficient refinery and that its production capacity will be increased from 1.65 million tonnes to two million tonnes per year.