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By Sylvester Carmichael- As someone with an abiding interest in the Guyana bauxite industry over the past 58 years and particularly developments in the Linden operations which, after 31 years (1971-2002) under state control, was privatized, I have reached the point where I am totally confused over some of the information in the domestic, and in some cases foreign media, on developments in that sector of the industry. I would not bore you with some of the developments in the immediate privatization era but would like to focus on developments over the past five years, four of which are slated as the start of the developments culminating in the recent Commissioning Ceremony for Bosai’s #15 kiln, Maz Metallurgical Bauxite project.
While my experience over the years has taught me to be skeptical about reports on data and information in both domestic and some foreign media on bauxite in Guyana, I just cannot resist commenting on some of the glaring inaccurate, misinformed, incoherent inconsistent and questionable data and information in some of the articles relating to the Commissioning of the #15 kiln and Maz project.
What bothers me is that these articles appear in the international media and I wonder what readers with some knowledge of the industry think of us, and worse that our Government ministers, State officials and Advisors to the President and Cabinet who ought to have reasonable detailed and accurate information on the industry appear to accept, without question, and I assume do not point out the anomalies to their superiors, leaving them to formulate policy and make important decisions based on flawed data and information.
While I admit that some of it may be just typographical errors much of it appear to be paucity of knowledge about basic information on the industry and inability to comprehend what is often being said by various speakers.
First, I would like to comment on the Guyana Times. October 6, 2018 article “Bosai to establish new kiln, and dryer; to resuscitate Linden aluminum plant”, which the company’s Secretary, is reported to have stated at a recent meeting with representatives of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC,).
While I am aware that I would be accused of nit picking, and cannot be sure if what is reported is what he actually said, it pains me to think that the Secretary of Bosai would describe the plant we had at Mackenzie for 60 years as an aluminum plant; what we have at Mackenzie is an alumina plant (technically defined as an alumina refinery), which converts bauxite to alumina, (Al2O3). a distinction that is significant in the context of the General Manager of Bosai reportedly, following suit, proposing to build a US$470 million aluminum plant. (I assume alumina refinery) in Linden, a proposal lauded by all present as genuine.
The term aluminum plant is often loosely used to describe plants that convert alumina to aluminum metal (aluminum smelters) and plants that utilize aluminum metal in downstream activities to produce a wide range of products by a large number of processes some of which could be separate or integrated with the smelter.
What is significant is the General Manager of Bosai now proposing to build a US$470 million aluminum plant when that same company, in November 2008, entered into an agreement with the Government to build an alumina refinery (1000,000 tpy considered at the time) and an aluminum smelter., but finally ended up with a study for a 500,000 tpy refinery in its 2010 report “500ktla alumina project–Feasibility of Research”, which concluded that a 500,000 tpy alumina refinery costing US$483.5 million was not financially viable, due, inter alia, to its small scale.
While I agree that plant parameters may have changed since the time of that study, I doubt they could now deliver a viable alumina refinery any time between now and 2030 for US$470 million – authentic studies revealing capital cost for new alumina refinery projects even before the global inflation era, exceeding US$1,000 per tonne of installed capacity.
After reading what I assume are the interpretations of the diverse media reporters on the Commissioning Ceremony, I decided to revert to the 2 March 2019 Guyana Times article headed “Bosai to invest US$23M on expansion plan” referred to by the Bosai General Manager during a visit by then Minister of Natural Resources and a South African delegation as the starting point for the developments being celebrated; the article reads, inter alia: “A whopping US$23 million investment by the Chinese-owned Bosai Minerals Group Guyana Inc, with US$20 million for the new #15 calcine kiln and US$3 million for the #16 dryer for the production of Sized Chemical Grade Bauxite and adding that the company had ownership of 200 million tonnes high alumina, low iron bauxite and currently was producing 1.5 million tonnes Metallurgical grade bauxite (MAZ), 300,000 tonnes Refractory A Grade Super Calcined bauxite (RASC), 200,000 tonnes Sized Chemical grade bauxite (SBGB) and 200,000 tonnes Cement grade bauxite (CGB), making it the largest supplier of Calcined bauxite on the world market.
To be continued
Sylvester Carmichael was Vice President, Marketing, Bauxite Industry Development Company (BIDCO)