‘Re-open the aluminum plant’ -President adds to call
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AS THE CENTENARY observance of bauxite mining in Guyana comes to a close, calls are still being made by several experts in the field, as well as the Head of State, President David Granger for the re-opening of the aluminum plant. It is felt that the production of aluminum will be more beneficial to the country’s economy and the sustainability of the bauxite industry. Currently, the aluminum plant stands abandoned in Mackenzie, Linden and is known as a harvesting block for scrap iron dealers and a haven for vagrants.
The plant was opened in 1961 but sadly was closed in 1981, 11 years after nationalization of the bauxite industry. Upon its closing, 1,600 workers were laid off. The purpose of the plant was to transform raw bauxite into alumina on site and export it to smelters all over the world to be further processed into aluminum.
The plant had a production capacity of 230,000 tonnes per year. One of the main reasons for the closure of the plant was the high cost of production especially the financing of energy needed for the manufacturing. This was coupled with the rise in the competition on the world market as well as the advent of synthetic material to produce the same products formerly made by aluminum.
After its closure, the bauxite company continued downhill and had it not been for the present company – Bosai Minerals Group Guyana – which stepped in, bauxite mining would have been a thing of the past. When Bosai commenced production in 2007, production was low but this gradually increased and this has prompted callsfor research to be done in an effort to identify the amount of bauxite reserves left in Region 10.
A glimmer of hope
According to chairman of the bauxite centennial committee Horace James, who worked in the bauxite company for over three decades, research has confirmed that there is an average of 100 more years left in the region’s reserves.
A survey discovered that there was 200 million tonnes of bauxite located at block 37, 18 million tonnes at Bamia, 40 million tonnes at East Montgommery and an unproven amount at Tiger Jump. The amount averages 40 million. In total, the survey showed that there is over 300 million tonnes of bauxite reserved in the Guyana shield.
James said that with the current production of less than one million tonnes per year, the calculation with the above mentioned tonnes in the reserves make a remaining 100 years of mining accurate. “There is more bauxite in the reserves that was mined for the last 100 years,” James posited.
Given this fact, calls are being made for the reopening of the aluminum plant so that value can be added to the raw bauxite that Bosai currently exports. These include Refractory A Grade, Super Calcine Bauxite (RASC),Super Chemical Grade Bauxite (SCGB),Cement Grade Bauxite (CeGB) and Abrasive Grade Bauxite (AGB).
James revealed that for the last 100 years of bauxite mining, 23 of those were used to produce aluminum and this number should increase for the next 100 years of mining. “For the next hundred years, we should at least produce aluminum for 50 of those years. We should work on getting back a modern aluminum plant,” he said.
Still in demand
Several of the mega aluminum production companies and experts around the world have reported increases in profits for the past five years and have all categorically concluded that the demand for aluminum has not dropped but the competition has tightened. According to the aluminum forecast and analysis aluminum demand has seen a growing five percent in 2016. In North America, demand should also remain robust, mainly due to building and construction – the US housing market continues to enjoy a solid recovery.
In Europe, demand is set to remain stable but downside risks are growing due to heightened post-Brexit uncertainty. Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum producer, in its 2015 report said that demand grew by 9.3 percent. It still expects global aluminum demand to double between 2010 and 2020.
Local mining experts and old bauxite employees have posited that aluminum production should recommence in Guyana and the aluminum plant should be reconstructed into a modern aluminum facility. One of these is Mr. Norvell Dennison who also says that with the demand for the resource and a ready and skilled labour force in Linden, with the commitment of the industry players, Guyana should seriously consider the reopening of the aluminum plant as another means of gearing big from the industry. This was also echoed by Sylvester Carmichael who in his analysis revealed that from the commencement of aluminum production in 1915, 50-70 tonnes were produced. In 2015, this increased to 55 million tonnes. With Guyana being classified as the 5th bauxite producer, Guyana should be a major player in aluminum production.
Use cheaper energy
The bauxite experts believe that one of the main changes that should be made to the industry if it should be reinstituted is the usage of cheap renewable energy, preferably hydro energy. “We have to go to a mix of natural gas and hydro, natural gas is clean, it is going to come off of the diesel and I think we must use it because it is cheap energy and clean energy,” Mr. Sylvester Carmichael posited. This was echoed by Mr. Norvell Dennison who articulated that one of the major downfalls of the aluminum industry is the high cost of production and this should no longer be.
President Granger at his feature address to Lindeners at the unveiling of the bauxite arch in Linden also made calls for the reopening of the aluminum plant. “The aluminum plant added value to our bauxite. It lasted 20 years, and I hope that we won’t have to wait 20 years before it returns,” he said.
“We still have enough reserves to allow production for the next 100 years… the development of the industry requires significant investment, and that is why we welcome our partners from the People’s Republic of China – people who are prepared to invest. We welcome them as collaborators to help to develop this important industry. Therefore, it is necessary that the region, the Upper Demerara-Berbice Region, must remain attractive to foreign investors,” he declared.

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