JIS News

A delegation of Czech geologists is currently in the island as part of on-going bilateral assistance by the Czech Republic, under the Mineral Resource Development Project. The project, which was implemented in 2001 at an initial cost of 7 million crowns (J$329 million), aims to assist the Jamaican government, through the Mines and Geology Division, in identifying and documenting industrial minerals, mainly limestone and skid resistant aggregate, for the construction industry and for export.
It also seeks to assist existing quarry operations to improve their quarrying and restoration practices. In an interview with JIS News, Commissioner of Mines and Geology, Coy Roache said that the assistance provided under the project has been invaluable to the development of the mining sector.
“We have been mapping our industrial materials for surfacing roads and airports,” he said, adding that this had become a priority after the government had to import materials to resurface the taxiways at the Norman Manley International Airport in the late 1990s.
The industrial materials include skid resistant aggregate used on high friction surfaces, such as roads and airport runways, dolomitic limestone used for some aspects of road works and high purity limestone, which is called whiting, used in making paper.
“They are also helping to enhance our management capability, provide mining plans, and restoration plans to show us what quarries will look like when mined out, using modern software, and also assisting us in training quarry inspectors,” he noted.
The Commissioner also said that the geologists have been assisting in the testing of the non-metallic materials, where they take the samples back to the Czech Republic and analyse them for suitability.
Additionally, the geologists have looked at equipment suitable for crushing aggregates. “They [Czechs] have probably identified manufacturers in their country and that is how they might benefit from the project in the end, because some of our people will buy their equipment,” he explained.
In terms of the physical benefits, Commissioner Roache said the project has supplied laboratory rock testing equipment to the Division. These include a set of sieves, a jaw crusher, a ball mill, an oven/dryer, a ceramic mortar, a leica TC 600 laser total station and an x-rite Sp60 spectral photometer.
Elaborating on the project to date, Commissioner Roache said that the quality of the materials at some of the eight sites visited so far has been above expectation. “We have identified materials that are quite suitable for various uses and are of good standard,” he said.
Sites visited and their deposits documented are located in the parishes of St. Andrew, St. James, St. Mary, Hanover, and areas along the corridor of development, such as Highway 2000.
In terms of Highway 2000, Commissioner Roache said that there were plans by the Division, in collaboration with the geologists, to identify suitable materials in the vicinity, once the route of the Ocho Rios to Port Antonio leg of the highway was announced.
This would reduce the costs associated with the transportation of materials and there was the possibility of export, he said.
He also pointed out that the Division would seek to exploit the documented sites by inviting local and foreign firms to invest in them. “We can exploit them for our own use and export to places like Florida, which import a lot of materials from Canada and elsewhere. We would like to have a share of that market,” he said.
Commissioner Roache said he hoped that after the project, which the Division was seeking to extend until 2010, the limestone industry and mineral sector would complement the bauxite industry in a very tangible way and attain equal success. “Jamaica is more limestone than bauxite,” he noted.
Under the project, geologists attached to Get Limited, a consulting firm from the Czech Republic, were selected to work along with the Division.
Representatives from the firm have subsequently been visiting Jamaica on a regular basis since November 2001, to carry out data collection and make technical representation in keeping with the project mandate. A technical team from Jamaica, including Commissioner Roache, has also visited the Czech Republic to get a first hand impression of mining operations and mineral processing.
For 2003, the Czech Republic allocated 6 million crowns (J$282 million) for this project and 5 million crowns (J$235 million) for 2004.
The activities of the delegation will include investigations of dolomitic limestone of Old Harbour and potential skid resistant aggregate deposit in Portland, in addition to meetings with various mining entities.