JIS News

Economists worldwide were so impressed with China’s wealth and influence in the 1990s that they copied that country’s strategies to improve their own economies.
This became known as the ‘China effect’. According to Director of Analytical Services at the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), Wilmon Wallen-Bryan, the rising demand for the Institute’s expertise is seeing the famous ‘China Effect’.
“We have been attracting more and more international clients over time and this is partially because the global alumina business has been booming. We have seen the ‘China Effect’, so to speak, as in the past five years, people from different countries have been querying about our expertise and whether we can help them,” Mr. Wallen-Bryan tells JIS News. Some queries, he says, come from countries that do not have a successful bauxite industry, and according to the Director, some try their luck, hoping that good news from the JBI would change their economic fortunes.
They tell him “we do have some bauxite here and we would really like to find out whether it is processable,” says the Director to JIS News, explaining that these outbound companies ask him to relay the properties of their ore samples after tests are done at the JBI.
Mr. Wallen-Bryan says that the early days at the Institute was slow, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic being its sole clients in the 1970s.
During this time, he notes however, the Jamaican bauxite industry was burgeoning with the help of the Institute. But as the JBI’s testing reputation went further a field, this resulted in a flood of clients. “Nothing happened for the longest while until about five years ago a flocculant company, Cytec, came. They are the people that took us to the marketplace. Since they were a multi-national bauxite- related company, they would go worldwide telling their clients about our good work,” Mr. Wallen-Bryan tells JIS News. He says almost immediately, clients from Brazil and Guinea in Africa began sending bauxite samples to the JBI for testing. “I just received some bauxite from Guyana, which is currently interested in our doing work on their material. Suriname and India is to send bauxite in another week, and even China is to send a sample to us in the coming week,” he says, adding that Greece, Venezuela and every bauxite producing Caribbean country are among those which have accessed the JBI’s testing services. The demands of modern industry require high production rates, reduced turnaround times, improved results and lower costs, and Mr. Wallen-Bryan explains that the high maintenance automated x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer at the JBI helps clients to meet and exceed these continuously growing demands. The Director explains that with advanced plans for a Chinese state-owned company to build an alumina refinery in Jamaica to satisfy its growing need for raw materials, demand for the Institute’s testing expertise is set to increase.
“The Chinese will be coming here to do exploration work and is willing for us to do some of their work as they find it very convenient,” he notes.
A Chinese delegation from Henan Province visited the Institute in July, pursuant to expanding its alumina capacity through the construction of a three-million tonne refinery. The delegation included Deputy Director General of the Foreign Affairs Office of Henan’s Provincial Government, Feng Yongchen and Vice-Governor of Henan’s Provincial People’s Government, Shi Jichun. Although the JBI does not take credit for the lucrative Jamaican alumina industry, Mr. Wallen-Bryan says that the successes of local companies, such as WINDALCO, JAMALCO and the St. Ann Jamaica Bauxite Partners could have hardly happened without the foundational feasibility tests carried out by the Institute. “We make production cost effective. We have done a good job in allowing them to operate as efficiently as they could under the circumstances where persons live close to the areas that are mined,” he says, explaining that special initiatives are often taken to re-use mined-out bauxite lands for agriculture that support the livelihoods of adjacent communities. In the last three years, the JBI has carried out a productivity assessment of some 13 crops to measure how well they thrive on lands in areas such as Hype Park, Skipton, Watt Town, Moneague, and Gibraltar that were mined in the past. These crops include Scotch Bonnet Pepper, which U.S market experts hired by the Planning Institute of Jamaica say are fetching higher market prices. Citing statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and the Sugar Industry Research Institute (SIRI), the experts say that whilst one hectare of cane may generate a profit of only $57,785 per crop, scotch bonnet and its derivatives could generate as much as $484,575 per crop.
The results from experiments conducted over the three-year period on the same plots measuring one tenth of an acre, showed potential for yields of certain crops grown on mined-out lands exceeded the national average. Although soils required heavier fertilizer and increased measures to increase water retention, this was observed for several of the 13 crops tested on these soils.