St Ann residents receive land titles from bauxite company after two decades of waiting
DISCOVERY BAY, St Ann — The bright smiles on their faces as they collected their land titles, last Wednesday, revealed the true happiness that several St Ann residents felt when Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners presented them with the long-awaited documents.
The residents had acquired lands from the company years ago, whilst it was under different ownership, but had never received the titles. However, the present administration said it made the acquisition of the titles a priority as it seeks to empower the residents.
"I am rather excited and happy after so many years," Winnifred Moore, one of the recipients, said.
"I have waited for 15 years; I visited the office so many times. Sometimes it's like we going to knock fist, but today I am really happy that after so many years I have achieved what I wanted," she added.
The sentiments among the recipients were similar to Moore's as many elderly persons, some of whom have waited for over 20 years for the title, showed great joy.
"I am very excited; I am very happy because I sold parcels of land from my property and people keep coming to me about their titles so today I am rather happy to know that I can go home and tell them that after many years I have now received my title," Moore told the audience at the handing-over ceremony held at the Noranda Sports Club in Discovery Bay.
Alen Treasure, too, expressed joy at finally receiving her title after more than 20 years of waiting.
"It's a good feeling," the resident from Linton Park said.
Alfred Clarke, another resident from Linton Park, called for the process to be faster so that more persons will receive their titles and live to enjoy the benefits.
"I feel happy to know that today I can hold my title in my hand and I am going home better than how I came here this morning," Clarke said.
Some 35 persons received their certificates at the ceremony, bringing the number to approximately 100 persons who have received their titles, to date.
Noranda's president Pansy Johnson said within the next three years the company will ensure that the approximately 600 residents will receive their titles.
"In another six months or so we are going to have about 250 titles ready for the guys in Minard, so that's going to take us about halfway to our target. In three years we expect to be substantially there," Johnson said.
"Having cleared that backlog we definitely intend to keep current," she added.
Johnson also pointed out that the reclamation exercise of mined lands was almost completed and that the lands were ready to be leased to farmers, at a minimal cost, for agricultural purposes.
In 2009 there was a backlog of about 1,200 hectares. However, according to the president, since taking over full operations in that year, Noranda has managed to fully rehabilitate mined lands and by year-end the reclamation exercise would have been completed.
"At the end of this year we would have certified all of those backlogs, meaning that they would be passed by the Commissioner of Mines and they would be ready to be handed back to the farmers to continue with their farming activities," she explained.