Trinidad gives OK for first aluminum smelter plant

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, April 3 Tue Apr 3, 2007 1:44pm EDT

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, April 3 (Reuters) - Trinidad and Tobago's environmental regulators have given approval for Alutrint Ltd. to start building the Caribbean nation's first aluminum smelter plant by mid-year, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Environmental Management Authority signed off on the plans after a year-long evaluation to ensure it met parameters for hazardous waste, air and water pollution.

"We've just obtained the approval and our contractor has told us that it will take about three months to put everything in place before construction can take place," Alutrint's public affairs manager, Clement James, told Reuters.

Alutrint Ltd. is a joint venture between Trinidad and Tobago's state-owned National Gas Co. and the Sural Group of Venezuela.

Alutrint and the China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corp. signed an agreement two years ago to build a US$540 million aluminum complex that will produce 125,000 tonnes per year.

The deal included several downstream projects that would use the output, including an automotive parts and car wheel plant, rod mill and wire and cable plants.

James said the company complied with all environmental requirements.

"We also met very regularly with the communities to address their concerns and we have their full support for the project," he said.

The smelter plant will be built at the Union Industrial Estate in La Brea, in Trinidad's southern region famed for its pitch lake.

American aluminum giant Alcoa (AA.N) plans to build a smelter capable of producing 340,000 tonnes per year in Trinidad but is looking for a new venue.

The government yielded to protests against its plans to build in the southern regions of Cap-de-Ville and the adjoining Chatham village, where residents feared the health and environmental impact.

The government proposed that Alcoa build its US$1.5 billion plant at an industrial estate offshore on reclaimed land at Otaheite Bank, also in Trinidad's southern region. But residents of Otaheite Bay fear a smelter would destroy the commercial fishing industry that supports the area's 400 families.

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