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TRINIDAD: Prime Minister sounds Alcoa warning

by Clint Chan TackNewsday (Trinidad and Tobago)
September 6th, 2006

PRIME MINISTER Patrick Manning yesterday said Alcoa would not be allowed to construct its controversial aluminium smelter in Chatham if it does not commit to developing downstream aluminium industries in Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking at British Gas’ inaugural energy luncheon at the Hilton Trinidad yesterday, Manning said TT had now entered its fourth phase of gas production which involved the use of gas in the production of aluminium, iron and steel and plastics.

Stating that Government no longer permits the primary production of any commodity in TT, the Prime Minister said: “The Alcoa arrangement also included that.”

“There will be no Alcoa smelter unless Alcoa commits to significant downstream production. The days of primary production by itself in TT is gone forever,” Manning declared. Residents of south-west Trinidad are opposing the construction of the Alcoa smelter on the grounds that it would be detrimental to their health and the environment. These residents have attempted to block company surveyors from doing soil tests on the proposed smelter site and even joined former attorney-general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj’s eight-day march from Cedros to Port-of-Spain to highlight their concerns. Alcoa public strategy director Wade Hughes last month claimed that company officials (himself included) had received death threats and had hired a private security firm for personal protection.

Hughes said Alcoa would not authorise the use of force against any legitimate protests against its smelter project.

The Environmental Management Authority is currently reviewing Alcoa’s application for a certificate of environmental clearance. The Prime Minister also spoke of Government’s development of a new gas utilisation policy which would improve the domestic generation of electricity, plans to provide Jamaica with LNG, pipeline gas to Barbados (once the gas was available) and develop Tobago as a regional export centre for compressed natural gas (CNG). Manning also disclosed that between Carnival 2007 celebrations and the 2007 World Cup Cricket in March, a major energy conference would be held in Tobago.

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