News - Real Estate - Projects (February
China, Jamaica studying: New alumina refinery
The Chinese are considering developing
a one-million tonne alumina refinery in Jamaica, and feasibility and technical
studies on whether Beijing should proceed are to begin shortly, Prime Minister P
J Patterson announced last night.
Patterson, in a radio and television address,
said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Jamaica/China cooperation in
the bauxite/alumina sector was among the agreements signed in Kingston last week
during the official visit to the island by the Chinese vice-president Zeng
Zeng led a large delegation of investment and
trade cooperation officials for an exhibition and Sino/Caribbean talks that
focused primarily on the Chinese using Jamaica as a jump-off point for expanding
its markets in the region.
While it was known that several bilateral
pacts were signed between Kingston and Beijing, there was no specific or
detailed announcement of the likely alumina agreement until Patterson's
statement last night.
"Specifically, the relevant governmental
agencies and China will conduct feasibility and other technical studies towards
the development of a new alumina plant in Jamaica to supply the requirements of
the China market," Patterson said. "Consultations will take place
shortly to finalise the work for conducting the necessary studies."
China's booming economy is hungry for metals
and Jamaica last year sent 830,000 tonnes of alumina to its aluminium smelters,
a more than 1,200 per cent supply hike over four years. The value of those
exports have gone from US$12 million in 2000 to US$200 million in 2004.
The proposed capacity of the plant, Patterson
said, was a million tonnes a year "and this would involve significant
investment for our industry and by far the largest by China in Jamaica and the
Patterson did not place a price tag on such an
investment or say where such a plant would possibly be sited, but industry
sources estimated that a greenfield facility of this type would require an
investment of upwards of US$700 million.
It was not clear last night how the proposed
Chinese alumina refinery would impact plans by Alcoa for a US$800-million
investment to increase, from 1.25 million tonnes a year to 2.65 million tonnes,
the Jamalco alumina refinery in Hayes, Clarendon that it owns with the
government. That project is to start by mid-year.
Apart from the Jamalco refinery, there are the
two Windalco facilities with a combined capacity of one million tonnes of
alumina a year and the Norsk Hyrdo controlled Alpart plant with a capacity of
1.1 million tonnes.
Officials have said that Jamaica has about 50
years of alumina reserves remaining and there has been no revision of this
Other announcements made last night by PM
. 150 new all-terrain vehicles for the police
force to arrive next month, and 100 new motor cycles to be deployed in one week;
. new Coast Guard base to be established in
Black River, St Elizabeth later this month;
. repair of police stations including one to open
in May Pen next month; and
. a public education programme on the
Caribbean Court of Justice; Patterson urged all Jamaicans to inform themselves
about the court