Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Suriname and Alcoa: a timeline

- Sources: Alcoa, Central Bank of Suriname, U.S. State Department, Fitch Ratings, U.S. Department of Justice, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, other court records, news reports, Richard Price, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, Anthropolo­gy, and H

1667: The Treaty of Breda gives the Dutch the English colony of Suriname. The English settle for the Dutch settlement of New York.

1762: Dutch colonists and escaped slaves, at war for decades, reach a peace treaty that allows each control of a portion of the country. 1863: Slavery formally outlawed in Suriname. 1916: The Aluminum Company of America forms the Suriname Bauxite Company.

1922: The first shipment of bauxite from the Moengo mine leaves for the US aboard the schooner Cumberland Queen.

1937: Suriname Bauxite begins constructi­on of a second mining site at Paranam on the Suriname River.

1941-45: Bauxite shipped from Suriname accounts for over 75 percent of the bauxite U.S. aluminum producers use to back the war effort.

1958: The Suriname government and Alcoa sign the Brokopondo Agreement. The government agrees to relocate about 6,000 indigenous people and descendant­s of slaves. The reservoir will supply an Alcoa-built dam that generates electricit­y for an aluminum smelter at Paranam, where an alumina refinery will also be built. 1964: The Afobaka Dam is completed. 1965: The refinery and smelter open in Paranam, bringing employment at Alcoa’s Suriname operations to more than 5,000 for the first time.

1971: Employment in Suriname’s bauxite industry hits 7,130, according to the Central Bank of Suriname.

1975: The Dutch government grants Suriname independen­ce.

1980: Surinamese Army colonel Desire Delano “Desi” Bouterse is one of the architects of a military coup that overturns civilian rule. Mr. Bouterse assumes full control of the government a year later.

1982: Fifteen prominent opposition leaders are murdered by military authoritie­s. Mr. Bouterse is implicated in the murders, but never brought to trial.

1986: Insurgents called the Jungle Commando and led by Ronnie Brunswijk, Mr. Bouterse’s former bodyguard, launch a six-year civil war that temporaril­y halts Alcoa operations at Moengo and Paranam.

1991: Under pressure from the U.S., the Organizati­on of American States and others, Suriname holds elections, restoring civilian rule.

1999: Alcoa shuts down the Paranam smelter. Meanwhile, “Desi” Bouterse is convicted in absentia by a Dutch court for sending 474 kilograms of cocaine to the country. He is sentenced to 16 years, but is never arrested.

2003: Alcoa says its Suriname operations make it the country’s largest employer and taxpayer, contributi­ng about 70 percent of Suriname’s foreign currency earnings.

2007: The Paranam refinery reaches record production of 2.17 million metric tons of alumina.

2007: A Saamaka organizati­on goes to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, arguing the Surinamese government did not respect their rights to control their traditiona­l territory, which was flooded when the Afobaka Dam was built. The Saamaka win on other counts, but the court rules against them, on procedural grounds, regarding any damages caused by the dam.

2009: BHP Billiton pulls out of the joint venture, leaving Alcoa in charge of mining and refining. Alcoa says buying out its partner “supports its overall growth strategy.” The same year, Alcoa idles 870,000 metric tons, or about 40 percent, of the Paranam refinery’s capacity, citing the need to conserve dwindling bauxite reserves until new ones are found.

March 2015: Mr. Bouterse’s son, Dino, already kicked out of Brazil for using a diplomatic pouch to carry cocaine, pleads guilty to drug traffickin­g after offering to sell drugs and weapons to an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion agent posing as a member of Hezbollah, the Islamic terrorist group. He is sentenced to 16 years in a U.S. prison.

September 2015: Alcoa says it will idle the 887,000 metric tons per year of aluminum refining capacity that is still running at Paranam and continue discussion­s with the government about preserving the country’s bauxite mining and refining industry.

October 2015: Alcoa says it wants to keep operating the Afobaka Dam and selling electricit­y to the government through 2019 as part of a non-binding memorandum of understand­ing it signed with the Surinamese government. The proposal is unanimousl­y rejected by Suriname’s National Assembly.

January 2017: Alcoa announces it will permanentl­y close the Paranam refinery. Alcoa estimates its cost for the closure, including funds the company previously set aside, at $151 million over five years.

February 2017: Fitch Ratings downgrades Suriname’s credit rating two notches to B-, citing “continued macro instabilit­y in the wake of commodity shocks.”

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