Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Dry limestone forests cannot be rehabilitated

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 12:05 AM


I would like to add my voice to the debate about limestone quarrying in the Puerto Bueno Mountain. According to the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Jamaica has 50 billion tons of recoverable limestone, 95 per cent of which is of high quality.

An article in The Gleaner on December 24, 2019 reported an interview JIS news had with principal director, Minerals Policy Planning and Development Division in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Dr Oral Rainford, encouraging persons to invest in limestone mining. There are already 77 licensed limestone quarries, the majority of which are working below capacity. Why isn’t investment put into these quarries to increase their production, instead of destroying the priceless Puerto Bueno Mountain?

Limestone quarries are located in every parish. They are all employers of labour, so earnings of limestone quarrying are spread throughout the country. Furthermore, the needs of each parish can be satisfied without material being transported long distances. For limestone for export, there are quarries not far from ports in Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. One of the claims made in favour the proposed Puerto Bueno mine is that it would provide 100 jobs. Where would the workers live? (Might they not be tempted to ‘capture’ some land nearby in order to be near to their place of work?)

I haven’t read the 70 conditions that Bengal Development Limited agreed to in order to proceed, but I understand that they would be required to rehabilitate the area when mining is finished. That would be impossible because dry limestone forest cannot be rehabilitated. However, what about rehabilitating other limestone quarries? The damage they do to the environment can be seen from roads and even on Google Maps, satellite view. The sheer rock faces of worked-out quarries could be terraced so that vegetation can put down roots. Ackee, breadfruit, naseberry, almond, guava, pimento, moringa and neem (a nitrogen fixer) all thrive on limestone. Garden and kitchen waste could be composted on the terraces to help build up soil.

A worked-out quarry could also become a sculptor’s gallery or a total work of art. It could become a tourist attraction. It’s time we start implementing some creative ideas.