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The Big Blackout of the Venezuelan Aluminium Industry

Metal News - Published on Mon, 18 Mar 2019

Image Source: caracaschronicles.com
On March 6th, Nicolás Maduro visited the state-run company CVG Comsigua, old bastion of Guayana’s workers’ struggles, and for the thousandth time he repeated the unfulfilled promise of “recovering the basic industries”. He was just reacting; on March 5th, caretaker President Juan Guaidó met with union leaders from all over the country to intensify the protest. “Our greatest victory against imperialism is the boost of economic production on all companies in Guayana,” said Maduro to the empty cheering of employees set as accessories for the speech.

24 hours after Maduro’s visit, the nationwide blackout began. Ciudad Guayana seemed safe: “At least we have the Guri dam here,” said the locals, with a mixture of relief and astonishment for the national commotion. That night, Ciudad Guayana citizens went to bed thinking only of hyperinflation, shortages and the uncertainty of the new normal in Venezuela.

At 1:05 a.m., homes went dark, along with streets and the three bridges connecting the two sides of the city. The twilight reached even those factories that Maduro visited hours before.

At 1:05 a.m., homes went dark, along with streets and the three bridges connecting the two sides of the city. The twilight reached even those factories that Maduro visited hours before.

The blackout lasted until 6:00 a.m. and, in those five hours, the last electrolytic cells still operating in the only two aluminium-processing companies in the country, 59 cells at Venalum and only 14 at Alcasa, went out.

Both companies were already at their minimum operational capacities, and they stopped working altogether on Friday, March 8th.

The genesis of an emporium
Inspired by curiosity and the postwar development fever, the civilian-military coalition that ruled Venezuela between 1945 and 1948 ordered the exploration south of the Orinoco river, to the country’s southeast. With the technology of the day, prospectors identified a mountain rich in iron ore. And that pleased them, and they saw it was good.

That mountain was very close to the Orinoco, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, so it was perfect not just for extracting iron ore, but also for exporting it. After the installation of the transnational Orinoco Mining Company in 1949, they noticed that another river nearby, Caroní, could serve them for even greater goals; its extraordinary hydroelectric potential promised a scenario beyond extractivism, using the region’s comparative advantages to transform natural resources through cheap electric energy.

Then came the idea of a steel industry, although the wealth of the Guayana soil offered much more than that: important deposits of bauxite, the main source of aluminum in the world, were soon discovered at Los Pijiguaos, in Western Bolivar.

But low-cost electricity, one of the main strengths of Guayana’s basic industries, turned into a flaw in times of revolution.

Source :

Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Mon, 18 Mar 2019
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