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By Horace Helps
KINGSTON, March 31 The West Indies Alumina Co., whose majority shareholder is UC Rusal RUSL.MM, laid off its remaining workers on Wednesday and said it would close its two refineries in Jamaica, labor leaders said.
The Jamaican company, known as Windalco, has a production capacity of 1.2 million tonnes of alumina annually. It halted bauxite mining and suspended operations at its Kirkvine and Ewarton refineries a year ago due to a worldwide downturn in demand for aluminum.
Windalco said at the time that the suspension would last at least a year, and cut its workforce of 1,119 to 762, keeping the latter group on the payroll with reduced hours and wages.
Windalco began laying off those workers on Wednesday and said it would cease operations after the sector failed to rebound from the effects of the global recession and falling world alumina prices.
"The company will terminate its employees at all levels," trade union leader Vincent Morrison said. "I am concerned about what will happen to the bauxite and alumina sector from this point onward."
Jamaica's government did not immediately respond to the decision, which dealt another severe blow to the Caribbean island's mining industry.
With the closure of Windalco, Jamaica has only two companies operating in the bauxite and alumina sector. Aluminum is made from alumina, which is produced from bauxite ore.
Jamalco, owned by Alcoa Inc (AA.N) and the Jamaican government, is still producing both bauxite and alumina.
Noranda Bauxite, previously known as St. Ann Bauxite, exports crude bauxite only. It is owned by privately held Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp and the Jamaican government.
The island's one-time largest alumina producer, Alumina Partners of Jamaica, closed a year ago and laid off more than 1,000 workers. That company, known as Alpart, was jointly owned by UC Rusal and Norsk Hydro (NHY.OL). (Editing by Jane Sutton; Editing by David Gregorio)