JIS News

The bauxite/alumina industry has not only been a primary foreign exchange earner for Jamaica, grossing more than US$900 million in the last fiscal year and slated to earn over $1.018 billion this year, but there is life after bauxite.
Even after bauxite lands have been mined-out, these lands continue to provide a “gold-mine” of opportunities for many Jamaicans. Large acreages of mined-out lands are now being used for agricultural, commercial, housing and infrastructural purposes in the bauxite parishes of Manchester, St. Ann, St Elizabeth and Clarendon. Up to August this year, the total acreage of lands disturbed for mining amounted to 6610.93 hectares (15,866 acres), most of which have been used for agricultural projects.
The Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) has played a major role in overseeing and initiating projects for the use of mined-out lands.
Head of the JBI’s Lands Division, Dianne Gordon explains: “The JBI as a matter of policy is directly facilitating programmes to get more farmers actively involved in producing crops on mined-out bauxite lands, while at the same time forging special marketing arrangements for the crops being grown under the programme. The matter of putting mined-out, reclaimed land to productive and profitable use is a priority for the Government, especially in light of the growing demand for land for residential, agricultural and public uses. This has been a major focus of the JBI.”
As a result, more mined-out lands are being used for agricultural projects, tenant farming, resettlement housing, playfields, community facilities and small industrial establishments. Not only has the JBI encouraged farmers to use mined-out lands for agricultural projects, but the Institute has actively conducted research into crops which can be grown most profitably on mined-out lands. In the early days it was thought that mined-out bauxite lands were suitable for mainly livestock rearing, primarily dairy farming, as well as for just a few crops.
But scientific research done by the JBI, and which continues actively, has proven that a number of crops can be profitably grown on these lands. The Lands Department of the JBI has been feverish in its efforts to increase the agricultural productivity of mined-out bauxite lands.
The Institute has established experimental plots of cassava, tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper, peanuts, pineapple and other crops on lands in Schwallenburgh, Hyde Park and Skipton in St Ann, and at Belmont and Mocho in Clarendon. The results have shown that the yields for certain crops on the mined-out lands actually exceed the national average. Such is the case, for example, with tomatoes, cucumber and sweet pepper and scotch bonnet pepper.
The use of mined-out lands for agricultural purposes has been a major, largely unheralded success story.
There has been significant diversification in the use of mined-out lands since the days when they were used primarily for livestock farming. Alcan Jamaica played a major role in the development of the dairy industry. But now bauxite lands are used for a multiplicity of purposes.
For example, more than 60 per cent of Windalco’s reclaimed lands are being used by approximately 800 tenant farmers in Manchester for agricultural production, the dominant activity being food and orchard crops, in addition to beef and cattle dairy.
It has also been proven that the cultivation of potatoes, yams and cassava can be very successful on lands in this area. Also, 30 per cent of Alpart’s mined-out lands is leased to small farmers. On these lands, peanuts, peppermint, cucumbers and orchard crops have done very well. Some of these crops are giving much better yields than the national average.
“Under the Bauxite Community Development Programme (BCDP), administered by the JBI, projects to expand the cultivation of peanuts, sweet potatoes and cassava production have been implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in Manchester, St. Ann and St Catherine,” informs Mrs. Gordon. She adds that in Mocho, Clarendon, “significant efforts” have been made in the production of plantains, coffee, breadfruit, citrus and ackee.
“This is in addition to the project involving the JBI, Jamalco and the Inter-American Institute on Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA) to use lands in the Mocho area for the upgrading of the local goat stock, which has resulted in more productive uses of these lands there,” she says.
The JBI has also initiated a project with Windalco in St Ann to expand the areas under pepper cultivation by an additional 100 hectares (240 acres). The current project involves 16.7 hectares (40 acres) of land under commercial pepper production at Union Hill, Rio Hoe, Riverhead, Bromley, Islington and Crawl.
To date over 60 farmers have been provided with inputs and irrigation, and are regularly supplying peppers to Walkerswood Caribbean Foods under a contractual marketing arrangement. At least 42 of these farmers have been provided with inputs and mini-irrigation systems through the BCDP. The project will be expanded to include Woodsfield and Haddon.
The JBI is currently in discussions with the St. Ann Bauxite Producers Limited to bring 31 hectares (75 acres) under spice production to supply the expanded Walkerswood plant. The plan calls for Scotch Bonnet and West Indian Red Peppers to be planted on mined-out lands at Burnt Ground, Armadale, Wakering, Hyde Park and Rosetta. Pepper and spice production will be expanded in Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
In addition to the use of mined-out lands for agricultural purposes, these lands are also being increasingly used for housing purposes. Bauxite companies have for long used reclaimed lands for resettlement. In Manchester, more than 96 hectares (230 acres) of mined-out land have been used for the development of no fewer than 15 resettlement subdivisions by the former Alcan company. Also, Alcan had developed subdivisions on 36.3 hectares (87 acres) of land in St Ann.
The most recent major resettlement on mined-out lands has been the 35-lot subdivision completed by Windalco at Unity Valley/Happy Content near Faith’s Pen in St Ann. But the JBI has been pro-active on this matter of facilitating mined-out lands for residential purposes. The Institute facilitated the National Housing Trust’s purchase of a large acreage of mined-out land at Perth, Manchester, for a major housing development, which will effectively expand the town of Mandeville and housing development in South Manchester. A major housing expansion using mined-out lands is also under construction in Moorlands.
There are still concerns that many hectares of mined-out land in South Manchester available for divestment by Alpart remain unallocated and unused. Some 25 per cent of all mined-out lands still remain unused and this is cause for concern to the Government.
To this end, the Government last year amended the mining regulations to allow for a penalty of US$25,000 per hectare to be applied if any bauxite company disturbs an area for mining and does not bring it to certification within two years. Companies with a significant backlog of reclaimed lands have to submit their plans for dealing with this backlog to the Commissioner of Mines for review and approval. The JBI, along with the Commissioner of Mines, sit on a Land Reclamation Committee which monitors the progress of and plans for mined-out lands.
The Cabinet is right now considering a submission to empower the Bauxite Land Management Committee to ensure that bauxite companies pursue a programme of land rehabilitation consistent with the regulations set by the Commissioner of Mines.
“This Cabinet submission acknowledges that mining involves only a temporary use of lands and that proper rehabilitation of these lands for sustainable productive and socially useful purposes is critical to the country and communities,” explains Mrs. Gordon. “We are also making a stronger push for mined-out lands to be used for new housing schemes, resettlement housing, commercial development and community infrastructure,” she adds.
There are large tracts of land in Manchester which have been mined-out and are to be reclaimed soon. These include lands south of Comfort mining block, including Roxborough, Barossa, Albion and May Day as well as areas southeast of Mandeville, such as Berwick, New Hall and Mount Nelson.
The JBI will initiate the planning for the effective conversion of these lands for public use, including residential, institutional and community uses. In this regard, the Institute is working closely with the Manchester Parish Council, the Manchester Parish Development Committee, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and of course, Windalco.
The creative and productive use of bauxite lands after mining is a Jamaican success story, which puts substance to sustainable mining.
The JBI works closely with the bauxite companies to encourage and facilitate their relevant and productive use of mined-out lands. Under the Mining Act, companies are required to reclaim and rehabilitate mined-out lands to a standard deemed acceptable to the Commissioner of Mines. If the company fails to restore the lands to these standards sanctions can be levied against them The JBI works with the companies to achieve goals desirable to both the community and the nation.