Reduction in Dust Emissions from Bauxite Operations

Head of the Environmental Unit at the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), Worrell Lyew-You, has said that bauxite companies have been complying with the required standards as it relates to the level of dust emission in the environment.
According to Mr. Lyew-You, dust nuisance was the main complaint from persons living in bauxite communities, but through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) in the late 1990s, in which the Institute agreed to monitor the bauxite companies on behalf of the environmental agency, emissions have been reduced by an average of 26 per cent annually.
According to monitoring data from the Institute, the reduction in emissions is directly related to mitigating measures implemented by the bauxite companies, which includes the use of dust control technology to ensure compliance with national and international standards.
The emission of dust by bauxite and alumina companies has been shown to affect residents’ property and there are complaints of impact on their health. In terms of its impact on the health of residents, the dust may affect the respiratory system of people in these areas. However, Mr. Lyew-You told JIS News that since the introduction of health-based standards in 1996, there is data to demonstrate compliance
Dust pollution usually results from emission from stockpile material at the plant and from the mining and transportation of the ore. National standards applying to the mining and processing of bauxite were developed and put in place in 1996. These are health-based standards and include the Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) and the Particulate Matter (PM) 10 tests.
They determine an acceptable level of atmospheric dust beyond which companies should not deviate. Both tests monitor daily and annual standards for bauxite companies.
According to Mr. Lyew-You, the incidences of companies breaching the daily standards were rare, while figures relating to the annual standards have been consistently trending down.
To reach these required standards, bauxite companies have installed electrostatic precipitators to trap dust particles from the plant and to prevent them from going into the atmosphere. Additionally, companies would wet road surfaces or cover bauxite material during transport to prevent it from becoming wind borne.
All of the bauxite companies operating in Jamaica – Alpart; St. Ann Bauxite Partners (formerly Kaiser); Windalco’s Kirkvine and Ewarton plants; and Jamalco – are showing improvements in the level of pollutants in the atmosphere as a result of measures undertaken, and there has also been a reduction in complaints received.
Leslie James, Corporate Environmental Officer at Windalco, said that his company uses bunker C oil mixed with grit on new road surfaces to help in dust control. “This is more of a long-term measure in terms of dust control”, he said.
The measure prevents dust that falls on the road during transport from becoming air borne. The bauxite in transit is also covered with tarpaulin. As a short-term measure, the road surface is also dampened to keep the dust down.
“These measures have been very successful,” Mr. James observed, adding that there has been a significant reduction in dust emission to the environment. He also pointed out that there has been a significant reduction in the number of complaints from communities.
Bauxite Community Councils, which were established in communities surrounding bauxite and alumina operations, provide an opportunity for open dialogue between the companies and residents. President of the Windalco Community Council, Carlton Stephens, noted that concerns from the community regarding the problem of dust had been met with a positive response from the company.
According to him, “the amount of dust we use to have has been significantly reduced. I am not saying it’s all gone, but, it is not as bad as it use to be. There is improvement.”

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