Mining Minister Robert Montague
The local mining sector has been hit with news that alumina production is to be shut down at the JISCO/Alpart plant in Nain, St. Elizabeth.
In making the announcement in the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon, Mining Minister Robert Montague said the company would be focusing on modernising the plant.
He explained that the current plant is very energy intensive and old.
Mr. Montague said the modernisation project would begin in the next 50 days and would result in the increased competitiveness of the plant, "save jobs, reduce waste and generate income for the government and people of Jamaica."
He said the technical team in his ministry made several recommendations to JISCO but the company decided a shut down at this time would be best because of issues such as worker safety and welfare, the high cost of production and high levels of waste, among other things.
JISCO/Alpart recently laid off scores of workers.
The company said the lay offs should last three to six months and were mainly due to the reduction in the world market prices for alumina.
The JISCO/Alpart plant restarted operations a little more than two years ago after being closed for nine years.
Growth projection impacted
Mr. Montague acknowledged that the closure of JISCO will negatively affect the government's growth projection.
"I can tell you that mining accounts for 50 per cent of the growth figures; it is the third largest foreign exchange earner and it employs some 5,000 directly in high paying jobs and indirectly some 25,000 Jamaicans depend upon it," he highlighted.
Mr. Montague said talks with the unions are continuing.
He said the Labour Ministry has so far worked out an agreement to ensure stability for the next two years.
He also indicated that some staff would be asked to stay on during the modernisation project.