Bauxite Mining Continues to Threaten Jamaican Farmers and Cockpit Country

Bauxite Mining Continues to Threaten Jamaican Farmers and Cockpit Country

According to the Gleaner’s June 2 article, J.C. Hutchinson, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, speaking at a Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners event, “welcomed the level of engagement and collaboration between Noranda Jamaica and farmers in the company’s operating areas, which he said are contributing to the country’s social and economic development,” and is quoted as saying, “Noranda has developed a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the thousands of farmers that make up its host of communities. I welcome and congratulate Noranda for its various initiatives, [to] include the land reclamation programme that restores land after mining.”

This is an astonishing example of Orwellian “doublespeak” and Trumpian “alternative facts,” that is unfortunately typical of the government of Jamaica’s promotional propaganda about the bauxite industry. Let it first be noted that Jamaica is the majority owner in Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners. Let it secondly be noted that bauxite mining has for over sixty years been the greatest destroyer of rural Jamaican communities and Jamaican agriculture. Representatives of Jamaican governments past and present routinely claim to support Jamaican agriculture, lament our high level of agricultural imports, and say we must, “Grow what we eat and eat what we grow,” while promoting the expansion of the very same industry that destroys local agriculture, tears apart, sickens and impoverishes self sufficient rural communities, leading to out migration, environmental devastation, scarred landscapes, wastelands and toxic “mud lakes”. What is lost is the heart and soul of Jamaica. People who are strong, independent, and knowledgeable, who can grow their own food and feed Jamaica. What is lost is fertile soil, forests, trees, endemic species, water, cooler temperatures.

You simply cannot build huge haul roads and strip mine the most fertile lands of Jamaica and then talk about “a close and mutually beneficial relationship with the thousands of farmers.” Anyone who wants to believe this nonsense needs to drive through places like Mocho Clarendon and the Dry Harbour mountains of St. Ann with locals who can point out what used to grow there. No amount of green house farming or pretend “reclamation” of the mined out lands can ever replace the tons upon tons of lost fertile top soil that took millions of years to create, nor can it replace the lost indigenous knowledge and way of life of the hundreds of thousands of displaced Jamaicans who have been sacrificed “for the country’s social and economic development.”

At this very moment Noranda is rapidly expanding westward into Gibraltar. Barnstable and Madras, communities who have over the years valiantly tried to stop such expansion because they have seen the suffering of their neighbours in places like Caledonia and Lime Tree Garden. The Government of Jamaica granted Noranda (New Day Aluminum) Special Mining lease 172 in 2017, and unless stopped will soon grant even larger SML 173. These two 30 year leases expand bauxite mining in St. Ann and Trelawny into the large North East UNPROTECTED part of Cockpit Country. This portion of Cockpit Country has been long coveted by Kaiser/St. Ann Bauxite/Noranda/New Day because of the quality and ease of removal of the bauxite, and relative proximity to Port Rhodes, Discovery Bay. It was therefore purposely left out of the declared Cockpit Country Protected Area.

SML173 is currently in the Environment Impact Assessment stage. As part of the EIA process, on May 27 in Ulster Spring Trelawny, at a Noranda “Voluntary Public Consultation Meeting,” Mr. Campbell from Alps Trelawny asked Dr. Mark Richards, the Technical Director of Conrad Douglas Limited which is conducting the EIA, a simple yes or no question: “Is strip mining good for the environment?” The answer from Richards, who apparently has a doctorate from UWI in Environment and Atmospheric Chemistry was: “It depends, there are pros and cons.” Actually the non Orwellian answer is very simple: “Strip mining is never good for the environment.” SML 173 and the expansion of any bauxite mining into the unprotected areas of Cockpit Country must be stopped.

Esther Figueroa, Ph.D.
Gordon Town, St. Andrew
[email protected]

Photo source: 123rf

About the author

Esther Figueroa, Ph.D.