Government Scraps Aluminum Shelter

Trinidad and Tobago´s government announced in early September that it would drop a project to build an aluminum smelter near a fishing village in southwestern Trinidad, calling it exorbitantly expensive.

The US$786 million-project was spearheaded by previous Prime Minister Patrick Manning (2001-2010), who left office in May after losing general elections to an opposition coalition. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had promised that her government would cancel the project.

Fisherman, villagers and environmentalists had long-complained that the smelter would cause irreversible environmental and health damage.

A judge in June 2009 halted the project, saying the decision of the governmental Environment Management Agency to grant the project clearance nearly four years earlier was “procedurally irregular, irrational and made without regard to a relevant consideration” and called for a new analysis of whether the proposal was environmentally sound.

Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said in a budget presentation on Sept. 8 that the government would cancel the project because of health and environmental risks as well as economic and energy supply concerns.

“The nation has got to cut its losses and move on,” Dookeran told local reporters the next day, adding that the project, which would have produced at least 125,000 metric tons of aluminum a year, would be a poor use for the country´s gas reserves, in addition to environmental concerns. “We can´t have these losses as burdens for all times. We took a judgment call.”

 

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