St Elizabeth residents seek solutions amid Alpart reopening
It is expected that with the resuscitation of the bauxite alumina industry, particularly Alpart, there will be greater economic sustainability. However, residents of Nain, St Elizabeth, and adjoining areas are more concerned with how their health and livelihoods will be affected.
Speaking on behalf of the residents at a WD Carter Lecture Series at the Northern Caribbean University on Thursday, themed 'The Bauxite Industry in Central Jamaica and it's Impact', community representative Orville Laing explained that there are environmental concerns that need to be addressed.
"Based on experience, there are times when we have failures, such as with the boilers that produced the steam. It can go out at any time and then it results in caustic emission, which affects the farmers," said Laing.
"The dust nuisance during the dry season really affects the children. It is something we need to look into. And the North winds that blow closer to the end of the year carry dust [that] damages the zinc on the roofs of the houses."
PRIORITY TO RESIDENTS
Additionally, he posited that persons from the area, who endure the most with living in proximity to the plant, must be made priority when new staff recruitment is being done.
According to Minister of Transport and Mining Mike Henry, who was the special guest at the lecture series, Alpart, which is expected to reopen in June, has already re-employed more than 500 persons and the more than 200 Chinese currently employed will be replaced by locals within six months of their return to China.
With the Government looking to start two additional plants, Henry said hundreds of jobs will be made available, but more importantly, private partners will be held accountable for the environmental safety of the residents as the health of the people must come first.