300-million US dollars!
That’s how much a Chinese company is seeking in damages, after this country cancelled plans to complete an aluminum plant here.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at a special PNM convention on Sunday night, said the his government is now “treating” with arbitration where the Chinese company is “now pressing its claim legally for US$300 million” after the previous government – the People’s Partnership, had put a halt to a multi-million dollar aluminum complex that would have produced 125,000 tonnes per year.
Rowley told supporters that the project had been stopped “mid-stream” by the PP, when it came to office in 2010.
‘For us, 300 million US dollars is a lot of money,” Rowley said, noting that on a visit to China in May 2018, “I deliberately did not treat this matter and the Chinese authorities were graceful enough not to raise it during my visit.
“But now that years have passed and we have not settled that claim, it is now a legal matter and the lawyers, who don’t come cheap…are talking,” he said, adding “at the end of the day (it will) be something substantial”.
Rowley was critical of the last administration headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar for stopping the project “even though the big power station was already built. They had surplus power built there and waiting, but they stopped the project.
“They went to court. The court did not stop it. The court said the EMA (Environmental Management Agency) must redo something…and then the government changed. It was the government that stopped it,” he added.
“That’s why today we don’t have an aluminum business,” Rowley said, adding that “was a major direction of diversification for this country.
“Moving away from oil and gas into aluminum and by-products even…pots and pans and motor car wheel and that’s where we were going, but they stopped that,” he said, adding that the last government did not even deal with the contractor and his fees.
“It now falls to my government to deal with that. The current Attorney General, he is dealing with that. A claim for hundreds of millions of US dollars because the contractor had done some work, bought eq1uipment, had liabilities which they could defend in the court….(and) who is now demanding that they collect their money”.
Alutrint and the China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corp signed an agreement in 2005 to build a US $540 million aluminium complex that would have produced 125,000 tonnes per year. Alutrint was a joint venture between the National Gas Company NGC) and the Sural Group of Venezuela.
The deal included several downstream projects that would use the output, including an automotive parts and car wheel plant, rod mill and wire and cable plants. But protestors including the environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh feared health and environmental effects.
In June 2009 High Court judge Mira Dean-Armourer quashed the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) for the project, saying that the CEC issued to Alutrint in 2007 had failed to take into consideration the cumulative impact of three major industrial projects, including the smelter.