‘Only chance for re­vival’

Jamaica Gleaner - - RURAL GROWTH, INVESTMENT, JOBS - christopher.serju@glean­erjm.com

CUS­TOS OF Manch­ester Sally Por­te­ous is chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists op­posed to the use of coal as part of the en­ergy mix at the old Al­part baux­ite fa­cil­ity in Nain, St El­iz­a­beth, to get their in­for­ma­tion right and not block the mega-eco­nomic pro­ject, which she de­scribed as the re­gion’s “only chance for re­vival”.

“We have the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time with JISCO (Ji­uguan Iron and Steel) com­ing to take over the plant. It’s go­ing to take them a year to re­fur­bish. They will then hire about 1,000 or 2,000 peo­ple. I mean, there is a plan to ex­pand the port and put in a smelter plant, and so forth.

“While I lis­ten to and re­spect the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, I sin­cerely hope that it is not go­ing to be a case of cry­ing wolf and pre­vent­ing an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity for Ja­maicans to get work. From what I un­der­stand, they will not be us­ing coal from China. They will be us­ing coal from Colom­bia, (and) the Al­part plant it­self will be run on oil, and the coal they are go­ing to be us­ing will not emit any worse emis­sions than oil,” Por­te­ous told a Gleaner Jobs and Growth Fo­rum at the Man­dev­ille Ho­tel in Manch­ester on Mon­day.

“Now, if this is re­ally so and peo­ple are not go­ing to be in a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, as far as I am con­cerned, we need to lis­ten very care­fully to what they are say­ing and to wel­come them be­cause all kinds of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist with JISCO com­ing,” she in­sisted.

In July, Trans­port and Min­ing Min­is­ter Mike Henry an­nounced that 700 jobs would be cre­ated at the fa­cil­ity by this month, with some 3,000 more jobs com­ing on stream over the next four years, fol­low­ing the in­vest­ment of US$2 bil­lion by JISCO to cre­ate an in­dus­trial zone. The first phase of work to up­grade the plant was pro­jected to cost US$220 mil­lion.

The Ja­maica En­vi­ron­ment Trust has voiced strong ob­jec­tions to the pro­posed con­struc­tion of a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant, cit­ing the threat to health and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

COAL NOT UP FOR CON­SID­ER­A­TION

How­ever, Henry who had pre­vi­ously stated that the sale trans­ac­tion would be com­pleted in three months, ad­mit­ted to The Gleaner on Tues­day that the is­sue of coal as the power source is not yet up for con­sid­er­a­tion. In fact, he said it is still some way down the road.

“There is no de­ci­sion made, and re­mem­ber, it’s an 18-month build-out be­fore you get to what en­ergy you go­ing put in be­cause the plant has not been func­tion­ing for a while. So they have to re­fur­bish the whole of the plant. The build-out has to fol­low the process of the hand­ing over of the whole process of pur­chase. So, we have had the agree­ment for the sale, and the fi­nal ex­change of funds I think has just taken place or is just tak­ing place. So the JISCO rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the ground is just due back here in Ja­maica for the next sign­ing of the doc­u­ments,” he said.

Henry ex­plained that he had not yet re­ceived any ap­pli­ca­tion on the use of coal as part of the en­ergy mix for the new own­ers and of the fa­cil­ity and would lean heav­ily on the ex­per­tise of those in the know, con­sis­tent with his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to tak­ing a “se­ri­ous, sen­si­ble ap­proach” to the is­sue.

“I am mak­ing sure that NEPA (Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal and Plan­ning Agency) and ev­ery­body gets all the in­for­ma­tion and does all the re­search that the judg­ment call is a sen­si­ble one be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment is very im­por­tant to me equally, and we’ll have to work around that,” Henry said.

POR­TE­OUS

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