The aluminium smelter plant proposed by the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government nearly ten years ago, is coming back!
But only if the economics look good.
At a Local Government meeting on Wednesday night at Market Square, Point Fortin, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said had the construction of the Alutrint aluminium plant in La Brea not been halted as a result of a High Court order in 2009, it would have assisted in diversifying the economy.
He said several countries have invested in aluminium plants which have been expanding and earning foreign exchange.
He said: “I was looking at a document recently, and it is this Government’s intention to restart an aluminium business in Wallerfield to make motorcar wheels.
“I saw three or four countries that went into that business after Trinidad and Tobago and guess what? Their business is booming and expanding and they selling alloy wheels to the motor industry of the world and earning foreign exchange.
“If any opportunity arises for us to import any aluminium ingots, not smelting bauxite, but importing aluminium ingots, and the economics look good, this PNM Government will go back to that business once the numbers look right.”
He said the People’s Partnership administration had been silent regarding money owed to the Chinese firm connected to the failed Alutrint project and that there were “serious consequences for that shut-down”.
Rowley said when he came into office as Prime Minister, a Chinese company produced a claim for US$200 million and on Tuesday company officials from China met with Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert about it.
“One of the first things I had to deal with when I came in as Prime Minister is a Chinese company producing to me a claim for US$200 million and that is what your Government is now dealing with.
“Trying to pack it away down to a minimum. The company has now come to Trinidad and met with Minister of Finance yesterday and outlined in detail all that has happened from the day they got involved with the project until now that they are making this claim,” said Rowley.
In 2009, the then PNM administration, headed by then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, entered into a joint venture business partnership arrangement with Sural, a Venezuelan company, for the construction of an aluminium smelter in the La Brea Industrial Estate.
Alutrint was a project in which the Government was the majority shareholder with 60 per cent and Sural 40 percent.
The project was estimated to cost some $3.375 billion with the smelter component to cost $1.7 billion and both parties agreed to inject funding. US$400 million was borrowed from Exim Bank of China for the smelter plant.
The project was stopped after the High Court order of Justice Mira Dean-Armorer who blocked the smelter construction after finding flaws in the certificate of environmental clearance granted by the Environmental Management Authority to Alutrint.