You are here
South bracing for protests as Severstal pulls out of La Brea project
Key players along the south-western peninsula are bracing for protests following the decision by Russian firm Severstal to pull out from the proposed integrated iron and steel complex at Union Park Estate, La Brea. With employment prospects declining in the region and development at a standstill, Point Fortin mayor Clyde Paul said tension was building in communities in the region.
However, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine told the Sunday Guardian in a telephone interview on Thursday that the project was still on the table. Earlier this month, Severstal announced that it was suspending projects in India and T&T. The Russian company cited a drop in profits and weak global demand as the reason for the suspension of its $3 billion investment. The Severstal pull-out is the second major snag to hit development in the region.
In 2010, La Brea residents suffered a major blow when the Government pulled the plug on the Alutrint smelter plant. Now, the possibility of the iron and steel complex not coming on stream is creating uneasiness for many in the region.
Paul said, “We (at the Borough Corporation) are normally bombarded by people looking for jobs. When they heard about the plant they went looking for jobs. Now they will be coming back to Point and most will be looking to the regional corporation for help. The question of blocking the roads will arise again.” However, the Energy Minister assured that employment would be generated in the area. He also assured that the iron and steel complex project “is alive.”
Ramnarine explained that the project was backed by a consortium comprising Severstal US Holdings LLC (Severstal), Complejo Matalurgico Dominicano SA (Metaldom), Neal & Massy Holdings Ltd (N&M), together with the National Energy Corporation of T&T Ltd (NEC), and The National Gas Company of T&T Ltd (NGC).
Severstal, he said, pulled out of the project. However, the other partners are still in negotiations to bring the project on stream. Additionally, he said, there were more projects coming for La Brea including the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan’s US$850 million methanol to petrochemicals project. “We have the methanol to di-methylether or (DME) plant. That project is also before NEC and we expect those discussions to close soon. They are at an advanced stage,” he said.
The Point Fortin mayor said he was adopting a wait-and-see approach to the Government’s proposed development since it is yet to materialise. “People were promised jobs and that these plants are coming into the area. They are not coming now. What do you expect to happen? There will be reprisals. “Everywhere else in the country is developing except the south- western peninsula and they will let their feelings show. They will demonstrate their feelings and you know how they will do that...by blocking roads.
“That is a fact. It is not that I am wishing that or encouraging it, but it is how the people express their hurt,” Paul said. He said the Point Fortin Highway project would bring relief to the communities if it is started from the south-western end. Work is currently ongoing at the Debe end of the contentious highway.
La Brea MP: People are struggling to survive
La Brea MP (People’s National Movement) Fitzgerald Jeffrey lamented that residents within his constituency are struggling to survive. He said the Government continues to make promises, but nothing has materialised at the Union Park estate. “It is a whole long list of projects. They came and made their announcements and hype up the people and hopes were dashed in every case.
“I guess you could appreciate the situation, the frustration with young people. “I am trying to get them off the drugs and get them into the schools to study hard so they can get jobs and nothing happens,” Jeffrey said. He recommended that the Government stop making announcements about projects until the details are “firmed up” and “there is a greater chance of the plan coming on stream.” He said it was “painful” for him as an MP to watch his constituents suffer.
South Western Chamber disappointed
President of the Point Fortin South Western Chamber of Industry and Commerce Nigel Minors said the chamber was waiting to see what will happen with the iron and steel complex. Minors said the chamber was “definitely disappointed” to hear that Severstal pulled out. “We thought things were far along and we would have been seeing activity taking place in a short time.
“We are hoping that the other stakeholders do not have to go back to the drawing board and that there is a plan B in place so that we can pick up where they left,” Minors said. He admitted the businesses within the region are facing challenges and many business owners are trying to maintain that level of positive attitude, “but some of us are being frustrated.”
Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon also shared the concerns raised by Minors and Jeffrey. She said there were pockets of unemployment totalling 60 per cent in many communities. Gopee-Scoon said the Alutrint smelter project should not have been stopped because it was an important component of the industrialisation of the south-western peninsula. The Government, she said, decimated all of the PNM’s policies—good and bad.
She said the Union Estate has wasted assets in its periphery and there are no major projects being embarked upon to utilise these assets. “Unemployment remains high and it is affecting all of the communities in the peninsula. This Government is not a government that is focused on all of the people of T&T and ensuring that there is fairness and equity in the distribution of resources,” she lamented.
Gopee-Scoon said while the Point Fortin highway project would bring some employment to the communities if it is started on the Point Fortin end, “it will only be temporary.”
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.