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Montague cautiously optimistic about lifting of US ban on UC Rusal

Published:Thursday | December 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Windalco's Kirkvine plant.

Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague is cautiously optimistic that normality will return to the operations of the West Indies Alumina Company (Windalco) in Manchester, with the expected lifting of United States sanctions on Russia's United Company (UC) Rusal scheduled for next month.

"We are cautiously optimistic and note the progress," Montague told The Gleaner in a statement yesterday.

Earlier this year, the jobs of hundreds of Windalco workers were under threat owing to the fact that the Donald Trump administration placed bans on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and a few of his companies, including UC Rusal.

With UC Rusal owning the Windalco plant, the US sanctions affected operations at the local company.

Even though Deripaska will remain under sanctions, three of his companies - Rusal, En+, and power firm EuroSibEnergo - have agreed to reduce and restructure the Russian billionaire's stakes in the entities. This has been recognised by the US as a positive move.

Subsequent to this development, Prime Minister Andrew Holness appealed to the United States for leniency towards Rusal's Windalco operations in Jamaica and was granted a waiver.

"We are blessed with a hard-working ambassador in Washington who has worked tirelessly, along with other stakeholders, to treat with the issue. We must commend the team at the US Embassy in Kingston for the way they worked to resolve this matter. However, highest commendations go to our prime minister, Andrew Holness, who personally engaged the secretary of the US Treasury on his recent visit to Washington," said Montague.

He also commended the staff of Rusal in Jamaica "that worked very hard" to keep the Windalco plant in Ewarton open.

"The sanctions have not yet been lifted, but they will do so in January, sometime around the 18th, and then Congress has 30 days to agree. The union and workers have performed at the highest levels, even in the face of great uncertainty, as well as the staff at the Ministry of Transport and Mining. It is Jamaica that ultimately wins as we move to expand the production at the plant," Montague said.