JAMAICA BAUXITE INSTITUTE
JAMAICAN BAUXITE Sustainable Business Magazine talks to Parris Lyew-Ayee, Executive Director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. Written by Jack Griggs-Smith.
The existence of Bauxite in Jamaica was first reported in the 1860s when the presence of large quantities of red earth, terra rossa, was discovered. In 1942 an extensive study revealed that these alumina and iron rich deposits, known as bauxite, were widespread throughout Jamaica. Early trials, however, had environmental impacts and as operations continued they impinged upon local communities. The industry was not only facing environmental
issues, but also social ones. Despite these early teething problems, mining operations continued and in 1976 the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) was formed with the aim of overseeing the bauxite and alumina industry. Its key objectives were to centralize and coordinate the activities of several government agencies in the bauxite sector, and to establish plans for the regulation of the industry to meet local and international standards. In April 1994, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the JBI and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), delegating responsibility for the environmental management of the bauxite/alumina industry, and the mitigation of impacts on the environment, to the JBI. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES There are many environmental issues associated with the bauxite industry. These
32 | SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE
include water and air contamination, as well as waste disposal. Disposing of red mud, the waste product generated during the production of aluminum, can be particularly difficult because its alkalinity makes it environmentally hazardous. Finding ways to dispose of red mud safely and effectively remains an important issue for the bauxite mining industry. “Bauxite is a major source of revenue for the country,” explains Parris Lyew-Ayee, Executive Director of the JBI. “Unlike in many other countries, the bauxite is distributed over about two thirds of the country, all within close proximity of communities. This creates strong competition for land and poses the dilemma of how the bauxite can be mined and extracted without causing problems for the local communities, especially when much of the bauxite operations take place in areas where up to 70% of the population is below the poverty line.”