Text Box: Jamaica’s Eco Warriors Call for Support in Their Fight  Against Bad Environmental Practices  
Text Box: Bauxite Mining in Jamaica - First  Signs of Problems
John Maxwell, is a Colomist of Jamaica’s Daily Observer Newspaper and former Chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation recounted.
Mr. Maxwell recalled: “Beginning six decades ago, bauxite mining companies began to buy up huge areas of land in Jamaica, in areas where the earth was red, as red as blood when newly dug. The people from whom they bought the land were happy. There was no irrigation in St Elizabeth, St Ann and Manchester, [parishes of Jamaica] and the land they sold was, in their opinion, not really good farmland. That was not true, as my friend Rolly Simms and his neighbours proved in Mocho, in Clarendon, where they grew huge crops of vegetables on bauxite land fertilised by chicken, cow and goat manure as they still do in parts of St Elizabeth.
“That was before the bauxite companies came to Mocho in the 1960s, and their coming was in a way providential for the farmers there: they had been bankrupted by the failure of the Marrakech and Arawak hotels which had bought thousands of pounds of vegetables from them and went bankrupt without paying.
“In January 1978, when I was chairman of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority, I dislocated my shoulder and nearly broke my neck falling out of a soursop tree in Hayes, Cornpiece, in Clarendon.
“I was in the soursop tree because I wanted to see close-up, the damage the people said was caused to their roofs by the toxic and corrosive dust and fumes emanating from the Jamalco alumina refinery.
“Nothing that Dudley Thompson, then minister of mining, or Shearer or I or could do, could persuade Jamalco to admit that their factory played any part in the misery afflicting the people of Hayes, Cornpiece.

"Even before community concerns escalated to public protest, the complaints of illness caught the attention of University of the West Indies medical student Patrece Charles-Freeman. After an exhaustive study of emissions and medical records within a 10-mile radius of the Halse Hall bauxite-alumina operation in neighbouring Clarendon parish. Charles-Freeman this month submitted a doctoral thesis documenting dramatically elevated incidence of asthma, sinusitis and allergies among those living close to the mining and refining operations
“In her study of 2,559 people, Charles-Freeman found that 37% of adults and 21% of children living within six miles of the facility suffered sinusitis. Asthma afflicted 23% of adults and 26% of children. Allergies, likewise, were markedly more prevalent among those who lived closest to the plant than in control groups seven to 10 miles distant." (Carol J Williams/Los Angeles Times, Oct 14, 2004) The Los Angeles Times story also reports: "One study under way at the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences at the University of the West Indies is measuring how deeply bauxite and other heavy metals have penetrated the food chain. The centre's director, Gerald Lalor, notes that the soil around Mandeville is also replete with cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, uranium and other elements known to pose health risks to humans."
“Jamalco denied liability. They have never admitted any environmental damage as far as I can discover. 
“They never have and they never will. A few days ago some of their top executives went to Mocho where the mining manager, Mr. Driscoll said inter alia: "There are some things that should have been fixed, and I have said it before, a long time ago. But they haven't been (done) and we now have to fix it. I could sit here and try to apologise. I don't think it's going to serve us any purpose now."

Red Mud

A scientific paper written by the head of Jamaica's Water Resources Authority sated: "Jamaica's bauxite/alumina industry produces a waste product known locally as red mud. This waste has been disposed of, for over 30 years since the plants were constructed, in unsealed mined-out pits within the karstic limestone.
“The karstic limestone is the principal aquifer in the island and supplies 80% of the island's water supply. The waste is more than 85% water, is highly caustic and rapidly infiltrates to the groundwater table. Groundwater contaminated by red mud shows increased sodium, pH and alkalinity concentrations. Monitoring of groundwater around the four (4) processing plants in the island has indicated contamination of water resources.

“Approximately 200 million cubic metres (MCM) of groundwater have been contaminated and another 200 MCM is at risk of contamination. The red mud ponds are in the direct path of groundwater flow and pose a serious threat to groundwater reservoirs and consequently the groundwater reserves of the island.  Relocation of the ponds would not remove the threat " (Abstract: "Contamination of water resources by the bauxite alumina operations in Jamaica -Basil Fernandez.
John Maxwell gave a local comparison: “The Mona Reservoir holds about 800 million gallons of water. 200 million cubic metres is about 40 billion gallons of water, enough to fill 80,000 reservoirs the size of Mona.”
John continued: “Since they began operations half a century ago, the bauxite companies have mined perhaps five thousand hectares (12,000 acres) of Jamaican soil under laws which theoretically compelled them to restore the land to its original state after the bauxite was extracted. If you fly over Jamaica tomorrow you will be able to see huge wounds in the flesh of our country, from which bauxite was extracted and the topsoil never replaced. That land is sterile, and you can make your own estimates of how much production has been lost in the years since the earth was ripped and torn to make frying pans and planes and lots of money for the financiers who owned the aluminum companies.”

Legislation relevant to bauxite mining in Jamaica includes
The Mining Act, 1947
The Mining Regulations, 1947
The Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act, 1996
The Natural Resources (Prescribed Areas) (Prohibition of Categories of Enterprise, Construction and Development) Order, 1996
The Natural Resources Conservation (Permits and Licences) (Amendment) Regulations, 2004
An application for the renewal of a Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence is made to the Minister of Agriculture and Lands through the Commissioner of Mines. The duration of the Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence and the extent of the area it covers is determined by the Minister.

The Chemistry and Processing of Jamaican Bauxite
The first commercial extraction of alumina (Al2O3) from bauxite has been attributed to Henri Sainte-Claire Deville in about 1854. 
Soon after this, in 1888, Karl Joseph Bayer described what is now known as the Bayer Process, which led to a dramatic reduction in the cost of aluminium metal. Today, it is an everyday commodity, rather than a precious metal.
Although deposits of aluminous red earth have been known to occur in the Tertiary Limestone areas (which covers two thirds of the land surface of Jamaica) since the 1820's, it was not until the 1940's that their economic significance as an ore of aluminum was recognised.
In October, 1943, Alcan was incorporated under the name Jamaica Bauxites Limited as a Jamaican company to investigate the commercial potential of Jamaican bauxite. In the same year, 2500 tonnes of ore was shipped to the USA for process investigation and it was realised that the bauxite was suitable for processing using Bayer technology.
The Kirkvine works were completed around 1952 and the first shipment of alumina was consigned to a Norwegian smelter in January 1953.
Immediately prior to mining any deposit, the land is cleared and the top soil, to a minimum of 6 inches, removed and stockpiled for later replacement when mining is completed. 
The surface occurrence of the ore (usually less than 100 feet) makes the deposits suitable for mining by simple opencast methods. Due to the soft, earthy nature of the ore, no drilling or blasting is generally required.
Deposits are located in areas varying from gentle undulating to rugged, hilly terrain involving major capital expenditures in establishing a system of ore transportation.
Cockpit Country Hydrology:

The Cockpit Country holds the headwaters of a number of the island’s major rivers, including the Martha Brae River on the north, the Hectors/Black River system on the south, and the Rio Bueno on the east (via the subterranean flow from Quashies River, Freemans Hall, to Dornock Head Rising, Stewart Town). The municipal and agricultural water supply for a large section of Jamaica is dependent on the input from these Cockpit Country sources. Because much of the hydrological connectivity is based on underground passages and fissures, the systems are highly prone to damage through in-filling, siltation, and rafting of solid waste. These changes manifest themselves as reduced flow, and reduced water quality at the downstream risings, as well as flooding in the upstream catchment areas. As of 2006, the hydrology of the Cockpit Country is not yet thoroughly understood (many sinks and risings remain untraced), and further research is greatly needed.

The Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO) presents a maps that shows the caves found in the prospecting licence area, starting with the sites in the Rock Spring and Freemans Hall districts of south Trelawny, and the northwest Cockpit Country near Deeside (more to follow). This is being done to make it clear how many important hydrologically active speleo sites will be inevitably interfered with if bauxite mining were to go ahead in the Cockpit Country.

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