American sanctions bite Guyana bauxite, Rusal

American sanctions bite Guyana bauxite, Rusal
Guyana’s Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.

United States government sanctions on the Russian government and some of that country’s state and private firms are beginning to affect some aspects of Guyanese bauxite production, with a major German bulk carrier operator announcing plans to pull out of Guyana almost immediately. Authorities said they were bracing for the fall out.

Oldendorff Carriers Friday said it will be forced to comply with new, sanctions-influenced rules regarding its bauxite transshipment contract with Rusal’s operations in Guyana and is therefore moving to wind up operations. The company has been here since 2005, helping to move raw bauxite ore from the Aroraima Mines in southeastern Berbice County for Rusal and other firms. Rusal owns 90 percent of the company.

Shipments are sold to the US, Ireland, Ukraine and other markets. The announcement was made first to TradeWind News,

The company said in a statement that it “will fully comply with United States sanctions and therefore will be winding up its business in Guyana in a timely manner. Oldendorff has yet to determine what it will do with the 20 purpose-built barges and six tugs for the operation,” the firm said.

The announcement came a week after both Rusal and Oldendorff had assured authorities that all was well and good at the Guyana end.

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said Friday that authorities are concerned about the impact the moves and general scaling down of bauxite operations in that part of the country would have on hundreds of workers, most of them locals.

He said authorities were not surprised by the decision as the German firm had temporarily ceased operations earlier this month when news of the sanctions broke. It had also resumed operations after talks with Russian and Guyanese officials.

“However, it was only a temporary fix and a longer term solution would be needed. What may be filtering down now is what we knew,” he told the local Stabroek News Newspaper.

Bauxite is Guyana’s fourth most important foreign exchange earner after gold, bauxite and rice. Operations in Linden Town, 65 miles south of the city and run by Chinese miner Bosai Minerals, have not been affected by the latest round of American sanctions.

The company is largely unpopular with successive governments and labor unions, for the union-busting tactics it has employed in the past decade. Authorities have several times cited Rusal for a series of operating violations, ranging for safety issues to unsanitary canteen and other facilities for Guyanese workers.

Strike and other forms of industrial protests have occurred in the past. The labor ministry has several times called officials to meetings to iron out issue. In some cases, they have refused to turn up. At other times, they have simply refused to implement agreements made with unions and authorities.

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