The following brief points will hopefully rescue the aluminium smelter issue from its current quandary of partisan frenzy.
�2 In 2004, one hero of the Republic, Yvonne Ashby, a lifelong nurse and great granddaughter of a freeman slave, stood up in Chatham and declared No Smelter! Take your filthy pot of lucre and go! She was attacking the bureaucrats of the National Energy Corporation, the Government and foreign ALCOA lobbyists, on health, economic and ecological grounds. She became the ideological centre of the No Smelter Movement.
�2 After vociferous protests from the citizens of Chatham, Cedros, activists from the urban North, the work of Professor Julian Kenny, Dr Raphael Sebastian, and others, creating hell for the pro-smelter lobby; establishing camps at Chatham, UWI, ALCOA withdrew in December 2008. Minutes from one ALCOA meeting reveal they feared the hostility of the citizens; and a global recession was on the rise.
�2 The Government was left with Alutrint, the Aluminum smelter in La Brea. But this too was attacked. Citizens Gour and Carter and a host of resident activists. Nobody believed that this smelter could be deconstructed. The Chinese had already arrived to build, setting up a housing complex, bringing in equipment; and work on the port was almost completed; a silo foundation was almost completed. But Justice Mira Dean-Armorer struck down smelter by quashing the Certificate of Environmental Clearance for it project in June 2009.
�2 Mr Manning lost power in 2010; the PP Government was persuaded, by various interventions; as well as a landmark Newsday editorial, to stop the silo. Why build a silo, a bin to collect imported alumina, if the project had no smelter? The project was left with one thousand acres of cleared forest; a good port; and the gas-fed power plant would go ahead. Smelter was squashed. Not by the PP government, but the court–the work of activists and counsels Fyard Hosein, Ramesh L Maharaj, Rajendra Ramlogan, Rishi Dass, Marina Narinesingh.
�2 The Government appealed the decision of Justice Mira-Dean Armorer. An appeal court met under Chief Justice Archie; they have not yet, since 2010, delivered a judgement. The Armorer decision hinged on the question of lack of an adequate public consultation; and the failure to find proper disposal for one toxic by-product of aluminium smelting, Spent Pot Lining.
�2 Since the Armorer decision (2009) both the Manning Government and the PP government have been whispering breath into the nostrils of smelter. A Wikileaks cable has revealed that Mr Manning had been attempting via his Foreign Minister, to find a contact, a pathway through diplomatic channels in the US, for the disposal of Spent Pot Lining. Did the PP Government not know that former Alutrint personnel were still employed in the smelter undertaking; in the face of a high court decision, well into its term?
�2 The Rowley Government is now is serious financial difficulty over smelter. The Chinese are making a case for fat compensation. They did not terminate the contract; nor the Government; it was the courts. The Government has indicated that it wants to pursue the importation of aluminium ingots to build a downstream aluminium processing facility: Alutech.
The Governments in the past would not listen. Not to Ms Ashby, the activist, good economics, science. As with the Debe to Mon Desir highway, whose counterpart in this struggle (starting 2004 as well) was Mr Balliram Siew of Penal, the failure of process, to heed the intelligentsia on the ground, has led to gross collapse, waste, partisan furore.
They preferred to be guided by the sycophantic state oligarchs, the well-paid consultants, rabid contractors, the engineering fatcat hood, bogus science and economics. Over one billion TT$ has gone down the drain. Perhaps more.
Nobody but the fatcats above want a highway between Debe to Mon Desir. Build a connector at the level of the existing streets, connecting the net, from the Debe Interchange to Penal, San Francique Road, Siparia North. Sell all those acquired properties from Penal to Mon Desir and recoup government debt. And is Alutech economic?
The Chinese might make it so. If the Chinese wants, sell them our debt by leasing them part of Alutech. Let the "bleed" occur incrementally. At least we shall be able to get some jobs, employment, from this diversifier.
No aluminium smelter in T&T can occur. The matter is buried deep in court; and if picked up, it would require years for re-certification. Besides it is uneconomic; T&T cannot any longer be competitive in the global oil and gas markets.The death of smelter is a done deal. No government, unless suicidal, would go for it. It is clad in the iron coffin of history. Alutrint would have been advantageous to the Chinese, a buss for us.