Govt actively working to reopen Rusal operations in Berbice River

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat

Years after the Russian-owned bauxite company shut down its operations in Guyana, the Government is actively trying to have the activities in the Berbice River restarted.

This commitment was restated by Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat, who explained that the current administration is working assiduously to rebuild the local bauxite industry.

RUSAL’s Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI) subsidiary left Guyana in February 2020, amid industrial unrest among their workers, terminating 326 employees.

Before they decided to leave, BCGI faced difficulties, including low production.In addition, when the company had initially announced its decision to terminate workers, it had stated that it was experiencing difficulties after the former Government ended its duty-free arrangement for its fuel.

The former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government was severely criticised for its handling of the issue and its failure to protect the interests of the hundreds of bauxite workers who were left jobless following the company’s decision to leave Guyana.

However, several months later, when the new Peoples Progressive Party administration assumed Government, the company was engaged in negotiations with the Government about returning.

To date, no decision has been made but Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat told reporters on Monday that this matter is still being actively pursued by the Government.

“We have been exploring options; we have been speaking with different companies to see how we can get this operation reopened and to go back into production; that is still ongoing.

“As of now, there is no concrete decision with regards to the reopening of RUSAL’s operation in the Berbice River but I want to assure you that it is still on our agenda. It is still something that is being discussed and it is still our intention to operationalise that mine once again at some point in time in the near future,” he said.

Minister Bharrat had previously explained that the bauxite industry dwindled by over 40 per cent under the former Government.

On Monday, he emphasised that the sector is being rebuilt by the PPP administration.

“The bauxite industry is being rebuilt and we are seeing increased production in the bauxite industry and the bauxite industry is even poised to expand even more through the expansion work and investment that is happening at BOSAI in Linden. Only recently we would have licensed a remnant deposit; a new small deposit to the BOSAI Company to boost their production,” he added.

The Natural Resources Minister also provided an update on the Government’s efforts to develop the Tarakuli area, which is one of the largest bauxite deposits remaining in Guyana that is of high quality and untouched.

“So, Guyana has a deposit and Suriname has a deposit and so we are looking at ways in which we can collaborate with Suriname to maybe do extraction and refining as well. Both Suriname and Guyana have large deposits of gas, so having a refinery which will be an aluminum plant is possible now with gas being a cheaper source of power or energy. In the past that was a hindrance but now it is more possible.”

Bharrat said the Guyana Government is seeking areas to collaborate with their counterparts in the Dutch-speaking territory in developing those resources. However, he noted that to date it remains at the discussion stage with no decisions taken as yet.