Jamaican bauxite refiner closed by fire

Jamaica's second biggest bauxite refinery has been shut down indefinitely because of a major fire that occurred over the weekend.

The fire caused an explosion in the powerhouse of the 1.4mn t/yr Jamalco plant in southern Jamaica that is powered by natural gas from imported LNG.

The plant refines bauxite ore into alumina, which is then smelted to produce aluminium.

LME cash official aluminum prices closed today at $2,647.50/t, just shy of a 10-year high settlement of $2,648.50/t reached yesterday. A global recovery from the first wave of Covid-19-related lockdowns has driven a metals reflation narrative since the beginning of the year.

Jamalco is owned 55pc by Hong Kong-based raw materials supplier Noble Group's subsidiary General Alumina Jamaica and 45pc by Jamaican state-owned Clarendon Alumina Production.

The powerhouse, which supplies all the power to the facility, is "significantly damaged" Jamalco said. "Everything is going to be shut down and it will be a while before operations are back up," it said.

The powerhouse produces power, compressed air, and steam for the refining operations, Noble Group said.

"A full assessment of the damage will be done in the coming days to determine the cause of the fire."

The gas-fired Jamalco 150MW power plant was commissioned in March 2020 and also supplies power to the island's grid operator JPS.

The plant is supplied from US LNG company New Fortress' terminal on the southern coast that is receiving 200,000 t/yr of US LNG.

The shutdown of the Jamalco plant is the second setback to the island's bauxite refining. Chinese state-owned iron and steel producer Jisco has not yet reopened its 1.6mn t/yr facility that it closed in September 2019 for upgrading and expansion.