Sun | Jun 26, 2022

Letter of the Day | Exercise caution on expanding extractive industry

Published:Saturday | May 28, 2022 | 12:17 AM


Audley Shaw, minister of mining, recently called for Jamaica to plan for life after bauxite and alumina. He further encouraged the extraction of the other ‘God-given’ minerals found in Jamaica. In the May 21 Gleaner article, ‘Look beyond bauxite, Shaw urges Mining Industry’, he highlights limestone as the next resource that the Government should focus on extracting because of its abundance. The article speaks to 150 billion tonnes of limestone reserves, 50 billion of which, it claims, is mineable.

The 70-year bauxite-alumina industry generated some wealth, especially in the early years. But let us not forget the downside: generation of significant dust which impacts the health of surrounding communities; major cause of deforestation, loss of rural livelihoods and flooding when it rains heavily, and destruction to the environment and important ecosystems. The extractive limestone industry presents similar issues to the bauxite-alumina industry, and limestone plays an important role in the filtering, storage and supply of our fresh water.

A simple definition of sustainability is “meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Extractive industries such as the limestone and bauxite-alumina industry are inherently unsustainable economic activities. A strong sustainability principle requires that current human activities do not eliminate future options. This rules out mining as a sustainable development strategy. Instead of diving head first into expanding the extractive industry, which causes irreversible damage and destruction, the following questions should first be answered:

• What does the minister mean by stating that communities impacted by general mining activities will benefit from the resources generated? Will the Government finally require all mining companies to have a compensation policy and plans available to the public?

• Has the regulatory framework for mining and quarrying improved? Will the air quality regulations finally be adjusted to now include measuring for PM 2.5, which is generated by mining and quarrying activities and is a known major cause of respiratory illnesses?

• What is meant by 50 billion tonnes of limestone of the reserves are mineable? Where are these located and what is the current land use? Have environmental impact assessments been done to determine what the environmental and social impacts would be?

• Have any cost/ benefit studies been done or are any planned to be done to guide decision-making?

We all want our country to prosper, but Jamaica’s economic growth and development should not come at the price of poor health for community members or at the cost of environmental degradation.



CEO, Jamaica Environment