Linton Gordon | Bauxite blues in St Ann
Bauxite mining has now arrived in Walkerswood, St Ann. There is large-scale mining of bauxite taking place to the east and south of Walkerswood. The bauxite company is carrying out its activities with no regard to the green hills of Walkerswood and the level fields where cattle rearing and the planting of ground provisions are main activities.
There are only two persons from Walkerswood who are employed to the bauxite company. The community is, therefore, totally disconnected from this massive economic activity. However, the community is paying a large price because there is now a dust nuisance affecting nearly all households, especially in the area of Walkerswood called Cottage.
The bauxite-mining activities are being extensively carried out east of Cottage. The dust from the activities is blown into the homes of citizens, and persons are now being affected, not only by having to do more cleaning, but also by related medical issues.
There will no more be a 'Nanny House', which all old soldiers will tell you is a landmark in the training area at Woodfield in Walkerswood. There is no longer the fertile enclave called 'Womantown', as this has been totally destroyed by the mining machines carving their tracks through the farmlands of Walkerswood.
There is, in principle, nothing wrong with us mining bauxite as this is a significant economic activity that is bringing benefits to the country.
However, the history of bauxite mining in St Ann is not a positive one. The northern areas of St Ann, stretching from St Mary to Trelawny, comprise some of the poorest communities in Jamaica. They all have one common factor, and it is that bauxite has been mined in these areas. The citizens of St Ann have little or nothing to show the benefits.
Faith's Pen is now an impoverished community. So, too, is Inverness, Alexandria, St D'Acre, Watt Town, Riverhead, Alva and Alderton. When these communities that are mined out are viewed from the air, they have the appearance of a landscape on which bombs have been dropped.
None of these communities has a high school that was constructed by a bauxite company operating in their communities. They have no good roads, reliable water supply, health facility, police station, fire station, nor anything of significance that they can point to as evidence that their communities benefited significantly from the presence of the bauxite companies.
Bauxite companies turn up in the community without giving any notice to citizens of the impending noise from the mining activity, vibration of buildings from blasting, and the inevitable dust nuisance. Citizens simply awake one day and realise that they are about to see fundamental change to the landscape.
Over the years, our Government has failed to treat the communities in which bauxite-mining activities take place with any respect. No effort is made to connect the mining activities to the interest of the citizens. There is, therefore, a total disconnect between this very significant economic activity, bauxite mining, and the citizens.
There is widespread complaint by citizens in these communities that the bauxite companies routinely fail and/or refuse to restore the mined-out lands to a standard where they can continue with farming activities.
Instead of restoring the lands, the bauxite companies leave these huge craters, which, in many instances, are so deep and steep at the sides that they constitute grave danger to citizens and their animals.
It is now fit and proper for the Government to take a serious look at how bauxite-mining activities are affecting adjacent communities. Citizens should be paid the courtesy of visits being made to them and an explanation being given to them of what is taking place and how their interest and their health will be protected.
Finally, the Government must find a way to use funds earned from bauxite mining to benefit these communities directly so that there can be some connection between the bauxite-mining activities and the community's ultimate welfare.