PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, October 21, 2017 (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago government says it has entered into a multi-million dollar joint private-public sector initiative, as it moves to revive an aluminium smelter project that had been shelved by the previous People’s Partnership administration.
The government said that it is injecting TT$35 million into the project with Alutech Limited, with Energy Minister, Franklin Khan, indicating that it would be a 60/40 arrangement.
Khan said that previous People’s National Movement (PNM) administrations had intended to get involved in the aluminium industry, adding that this was the rationale behind the aluminium smelter plant, which was cancelled by the previous government.
“However we still feel we can salvage a downstream aluminium industry, based on imported elements,” he said, noting that the aluminium industry was lucrative.
“Strange enough, over this time of depressed commodity prices, one of the few prices in the world that have not been depressed is aluminium, and that is largely because of the motor car industry and aluminium wheels, which have now become ubiquitous throughout the motor car industry,” he said, telling legislators that the scheme is a small investment.
Opposition legislator, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, said “as I understand it, this is an injection in a company that will produce locally, basically mag rims”.
Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, told the Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee, on Friday, that the state has been dealing with various claims made against following the decision by the last government to end the smelter plant project.
“There is some settlement with respect to the closure of the project, where the minority partner would have had claims against the state.
“Those matters are still in negotiations, however, both parties have agreed to go forward and some of that settlement considerations would be taken into account,” he said.
But Rowley told legislators “this is not the end of it. We are in discussions with the Chinese government, with respect to settlement of another claim with respect to the closure and abandonment of the smelter project, that is a much larger sum”.
He said discussions with the Chinese are expected to be held soon, adding “the failures and the arbitrations and the liabilities we are dealing with…are as a direct result of the UNC (United National Congress government) shutting down the aluminium project which started with a smelter and down streaming”.
He said the smelter project was being financed by the Chinese Import/Export Bank, adding “we have liabilities there”, noting that equipment worth US$40 million “had been in a warehouse ever since.
“What we are trying to do now is to re-start the project, so as to save the down streaming side based on imported inputs since we have killed the smelting side of it .”