Mon | Jan 17, 2022

Setting records straight on Noranda environmental impacts

Published:Saturday | November 27, 2021 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I respond to the letter to The Gleaner published on November 20 from Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). As CEO of the parent company now operating Noranda Bauxite, we have an important interest in a transparent position on bauxite in Jamaica and SML 173. As the new owners of Noranda, our intention is to do a better job than any predecessor.

We believe mining industries are necessary and employ many people to provide building blocks for products that are important for any economy or energy transition – and that the natural environment is of great importance to protect and thoughtfully operate within, both can be simultaneously true. There is a right way and a wrong way to do any activity.

As such, our company became the first to publicly recognise Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) establishment of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA). It was not a commercially optimal decision for a bauxite company, but rather we chose the right decision.

Some assertions in the JET letter are incorrect. The new SML 173 is completely outside of the CCPA as declared by the GOJ and in finality is a much smaller SML than previously outlined to bauxite companies over many decades, which is now conservation. Less than 18 per cent of the new SML 173 will be mined for bauxite, away from the CCPA boundary and much on land already owned by Noranda. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for SML 173 has shown there will be no groundwater contamination – this was further validated by a former WRA head.

Statements on Karst formations or the Rio Bueno being “at risk’’ were addressed in the EIA. An archaeological impact assessment was undertaken by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. You ignore that Noranda will respect forestry reserves by voluntarily agreeing to establish forest exclusions zones. SML 173 allows Noranda to move away from community proximity with its mining activities. Regarding the global climate crisis, it is important that Jamaica not cede its position as a leading bauxite industry participant that can control its already high standards of environmental protection and community engagement to large bauxite industry competitors such as Guinea or Brazil.

Economic impact

On behalf of 1,000 people directly and indirectly employed by Noranda Bauxite, it is important to know that SML 173 represents the future. This company contributes US$85 million annually to Jamaica’s economy. What is described in the JET letter as ‘‘paltry sums’’ does not consider the economic impact of a worker earning a good wage and the multiplier effect of that, nor the business revenues from contractors who then spend. What you call ‘minor contributions’ such as painting a school or constructing a playing field is not minor to the beneficiary.

Noranda’s work with hospitals and clinics in St Ann, numerous student recipients of scholarships, people who use 130 greenhouses constructed, and wonder if they find this work ‘minor’. We intend to do more, not less. But the delay in SML 173 makes it impossible for Noranda to invest in its future in Jamaica. A mining company needs reserves to thoughtfully execute its mine plan and better standards. Our workforce, communities, contractors, and suppliers should know what you would propose they do if mining a portion in SML 173 is not to be the future of work.

I respect JET’s activities in environmental protection. I also respect Noranda community efforts. Our company wants to be proud of its work, a good place to work, and a positive participant in Jamaica. Time is short for the future of an important business. We want to do things the right way, as opposed to not at all.

MARK HANSEN

CEO,

Noranda Alumina & Bauxite