By November this year, 700 jobs will be created at the Alpart plant in Nain, St Elizabeth, which is being acquired by Chinese company Jiuguan Iron and Steel (JISCO) from Russian firm UC Rusal.
In another four years, JISCO will be investing US$2 billion to establish an industrial zone at Nain, employing more than 3,000 persons.
The industrial zone will comprise bauxite mines, an alumina refinery, a coal-fired power plant, a local electricity network, rolling wire mills, and a range of aluminium products, among other enterprises.
Transport and Mining Minister Mike Henry said the first phase of the work to upgrade the plant would cost US$220 million.
Henry led a Jamaican delegation including Science, Technology and Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley to China recently to witness the signing ceremony for the sale of the Alpart alumina refinery in Nain, St Elizabeth.
He told journalists at a press conference at the ministry on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston yesterday that the Alpart transaction would be finalised within the next three months.
200 CHINESE WORKERS
JISCO will dispatch 200 Chinese workers to the plant, not including designers and contractors. Henry said the Government would provide special work permits for the overseas workers in the short term.
He said Alpart would retain the existing workforce and recruit former employees of the bauxite company.
The mining minister stressed that JISCO would have to "strictly abide by the relevant laws, regulations, and orders from the Jamaican Government regarding labour, health, safety, and the environment".
Henry said the Government and JISCO would be careful to protect the environment while the project unfolded.
JISCO intends to utilise coal as the main power supply for a 1,000 megawatt power plant. This initiative is expected to reduce energy consumption and operational costs.
"Young Jamaicans will be trained in China at JISCO's university through an exchange programme," Henry said.
He also pointed out that the reopening of Alpart would see the development of an effective irrigation system for the communities around the plant.
Commenting on the possible environmental impact using a coal-fired power plant, Wheatley said a representative from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) was part of the Jamaican delegation to China.
He said the technology that the Chinese company is using now appears to be relatively clean. "We will not do anything detrimental to the environment. We saw first-hand the improved technology. There are certain standards that must be in place," he added.
Wheatley said the Government was awaiting an official report from NEPA, noting that the administration had not signed off on the use of coal. However, he indicated that if the Government endorses the coal-fired plant, "we (will have to) make sure that everything is in place to preserve the environment".
Source : jamaica-gleaner.com