Oct 08 2007

Behind the Shining: Aluminum’s Dark Side

- Middle East

According to a Nov. 2000 report by Gulf Business Online, “both Bahrain and

the UAE (United Arab Emirates) have been proactive in encouraging more

downstream industries as a means of adding more value to their latent

industrial sector. The Bahrain Development Bank (BDB), Bahrain’s Ministry

of Finance and National Economy, the Ministry of Oil and Industry and the

United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), have joined

hands to promote the budding aluminium industry in the Gulf region by

drafting product and financing strategy. A string of projects with joint

ventures and some buy-back arrangements are now in the pipeline.” (Roger

Jacobson, “Future looks bright for the GCC aluminium industrry,” Gulf

Business Online (Dubai), Nov. 9, 2000)

- Indonesia

In one of the most infamous boondoggles of bilateral aid, the Japanese

government loaned billions of dollars [CHECK] toward the development of the

225,000 ton Inalum smelter in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The Inalum smelter

is controlled by Nippon Asahan Aluminium Co., a consortium of 12 Japanese

companies (including Hitachi, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi) and the government’s

Overseas Cooperation Fund.

In 1992, the Los Angeles Times reported that ), “critics of the Asahan

project say it is a classic example of the kind of commercially oriented

foreign aid that serves the strategic interests of Japan, the donor, far

more than the recipients of official assistance. A potent symbol of skewed

priorities… is the nine-hole golf course carved out of the jungle in

Paritohan, built with aid money for Inalum employees and used most

enthusiastically by Japanese visitors and expatriate engineers. Profitable

or not at this end, Inalum provides a cheap and secure supply of aluminum

to the cartel of Japanese aluminum makers who invested in a majority stake

of the project, using low-interest Tokyo government financing.

“[A] pattern has emerged, analysts say: The bulk of the aid [to Asia] has

gone into large infrastructure projects that provide lucrative contracts

for Japanese construction firms and equipment supplier,” the report added.

(Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1992)

See energy section for more details on this project.

- Oman

In May 1998, the Omani government signed a $250 million loan from the

Import-Export Bank of Japan to build a new port which will serve

petrochemical plants and an aluminum smelter planned in Sohar, according to

Agence France Presse (June 1, 1998) Dubal is pondering the construction of

a new $2.5 billion, 480,000 ton smelter in Oman. (Rasha Owais, “Dubal

studies Oman smelter project,” Gulf News, April 10, 1999)

- Mozambique and Malawi

In the industry’s largest recent multilateral and bilateral bank financing

scheme, foreign institutions including the World Bank, European Investment

Bank, and national agencies have poured over $820 million into the new

Billiton/Mitsubishi smelter in Mozambique.

The smelter development is the largest-ever private investment project in

the country. Its projected cost of $1.3 billion almost equal’s Mozambique’s

Gross National Product. (Leon Pretorius, “Regional integration and

development in Southern Africa: A case study of the MOZAL Project and its

implications for workers,” International Labour Resource and Information

Group, March 2000)

The Mozal consortium — Billiton (47%), Mitsubishi (25%), South Africa’s

Industrial Development Corp. (24%), and the government of Mozambique (4%)

– completed the 250,000 ton per year smelter in 2000. About $820 million

of the $1.34 billion in project costs are being financed by the foreign

multilateral and bilateral agencies, including World Bank’s IFC ($120

million in loans) and IDA, the European Investment Bank ($46 million), and

national agencies in the U.K. (Commonwealth Development Corp.), Germany

(DEG) , South Africa (Credit Guarantee Insurance Corp.), and France ($26

million from the Caisse Francaise de Developpement). (American Metal

Market, May 19, 1998; Mozal press release, “International Financing for

Mozal smelter concluded,” Oct. 30, 1998, at www.mozal.com; International

Finance Corp., “Mozambique: Mozal Aluminum Company,” at www.ifc.org;

European Investment Bank, “EIB financing for regional power project in

Southern Africa,” press release, June 29, 1999)

The consortium is conducting a feasibility study for the possible doubling

of Mozal’s capacity. (Stephen Johnston, “Aluminium,” Mining Annual Review,

March 2000)

The possible gutting of Mulanje Mountain in Malawi to supply bauxite for

Mozal also has multilateral bank ties. In the mid-1990s, a study financed

by the African Development Bank has uncovered the reserves at Mulanje. The

study, according to African Economic Digest (June 10, 1996) study indicated

that the project could produce 540,000 tons of bauxite a year… 200,000 tons

of alumina and 100,000 tons of aluminum. About $880 million is needed to

develop the project.” (African Economic Digest, June 10, 1996).

(See Environment chapter for more details on Mulanje Mountain, the Human

Rights chapter for more on the worker rights at Mozal, and the Energy

chapter for more on the impact of Mozal’s energy consumption on the Zambezi

River delta)

- Venezuela

The IMF is encouraging the Venezuelan government to privatize its aluminum

industry. In 1998, IMF managing director Michel Camdessus met with

Venezualan officials and pushed “the privatization of companies in the

aluminum and electricity sector,” according to an IMF release. (IMF news

brief No. 98/13, May 19, 1998)

- Vietnam

The Vietnamese government is seeking support from France’s Overseas

Development Agency to devleop a bauxite mine/refinery/smelter operation in

the Tan Rai District of Lam Dong Province. The government hopes to have the

complex producing one million tons of bauxite and 200,000 tons of aluminum

per year by 2003. The complex would be owned by a joint venture of the

government and Pechiney. (“Bauxite Joint Venture Approved,” Dau Tu, April

22, 1999, www.mekongresearch.com)

Pechiney is expected to complete a feasibility study on the $800 million

project in 2001. The Central Highlands (Taây Nguyeân) region of Vietnam

holds reserves of over 3.4 billion tons of bauxite. (“Industry Ministry has

seen the future, and it’s made of aluminium,” Vietnam News Agency, March

22, 2000 at vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/2000-03/21/Stories/14.htm;

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