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11. February 2016

USA - Aluminum plant's status unclear

Official: City has not heard from company president since September

Where is Eric Shen? That's the $120 million question.

City officials say they have not heard from the president of the Mojave Aluminum Company since September. Shen proposed almost a year ago to build a $120 million, 500,000-square-foot aluminum remelt and casting house plant in Lenwood. Shen said the plant would employ up to 450 people.

The plant was a scaled-down version of one the City Council approved in March 2014. That $1.5 billion, 3 million-square-foot aluminum manufacturing complex also was proposed for the Lenwood area on property that was once Sun & Sky golf Course. It was projected to employ 2,000 workers until Shen pulled the plug on it, blaming the high cost of electricity in California for its downfall.

City officials said an Environmental Impact Report on the smaller project was expected to be released in November. City Councilman Richard Harpole asked about the delay during Monday's City Council meeting.

"Have we heard anything from Mojave Aluminum?" Harpole asked. "My understanding was, as I recall, we were supposed to see the environmental report in November. I haven't heard anything. We haven't heard anything."

City Manager Curt Mitchell confirmed that the EIR was expected in November.

"We expected to get the environmental report in November. We have not received that yet. And we do not have a date when we can expect it."

Economic Development and Planning Manager Gaither Loewenstein said Wednesday he has not heard from Shen since September. Loewenstein said Shen told him a draft of the EIR was completed, but he wanted to review it before submitting it to the city.

Loewenstein also said that Mojave Aluminum Company's application with the city remains incomplete.

Meanwhile, the office building on East Main Street that Mojave Aluminum leased almost a year ago appears to be empty. The Desert Dispatch has repeatedly called Shen on a number he released to the newspaper in March. All calls go straight to his voicemail.

The Desert Dispatch also left messages Tuesday and Wednesday with Las Vegas attorney Dean Kajioka, of Kajioka & Associates. He sent the Desert Dispatch a statement by email in August after a Dupre Analytics report was released. It accused China Zhongwang Holdings Limited of siphoning profits, and defrauding investors and the government of the People's Republic of China through questionable borrowing practices and the inappropriate movement of aluminum products. The Dupre report also mentioned Shen by name.

"The article contains numerous allegations, speculation and presumptions in its presentation of alleged information," Kajioka's statement said. "Mr. Shen would not knowingly violate any anti-dumping laws nor would he knowingly attempt to circumvent any VAT regulations by acting as a related party. We are investigating the information presented by Dupre Analytics so that we may be able to more fully understand the basis of Dupre Analytics' allegations as set forth in their article."

So far, Kajioka has not responded to recent Desert Dispatch messages.

On Tuesday, the Desert Dispatch contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce to see if it had decided to open an investigation into China Zhongwang. A spokeswoman denied knowledge of that. But later Tuesday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of Commerce has set a new deadline of Feb. 22 to decide whether to investigate allegations that the Zhongwang Group evaded U.S. import duties.

The new deadline comes after the Commerce Department asked the Aluminum Extrusions Fair Trade Committee to re-file its initial petition as several separate cases. The previous deadline had been Jan. 21.

The U.S. Aluminum Extruders Council initially filed a complaint against Zhongwang Group, the world's second-largest producer of aluminum extrusions, on Oct. 22.

Source: desertdispatch.com

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