'Remove it!'

North & East

'Remove it!'

Residents tell Noranda to get rid of pond following 10-y-o boy's death

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 17, 2020

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RESIDENTS in Water Valley, St Ann, are calling for the removal of a pond built by Noranda Bauxite in the community following the death of 10-year-old Rajaun Brown late last month.

“We the residents and thousands of children want it removed [or] relocated. It provides a hazard for mosquito breeding and safety hazard for everyone. We put up with a lot from the bauxite company; the dust nuisance, noise, and now this tragedy. We deserve to live in peace. We ask that the pond be demolished,” residents said in a letter delivered to the Jamaica Observer North & East last Thursday during a visit to the community.

The letter follows several protests staged by residents to have the pond removed or relocated after Rajaun's body was found afloat in it by a search party consisting of police and residents on January 30.

Reports from the Alexandria police are that about 3:00 pm the previous day, Rajaun, a student of Retirement Primary School, left home for an undisclosed location.

A report was made when he failed to return home and a search was launched.

About 6:40 am Rajaun's body was discovered in the pond and removed with the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard. It is suspected that he drowned.

The body was later transported to the morgue. A post-mortem is expected to be conducted today.

“We the residents of Water Valley were firstly not informed of the resurrection of the pond. It was a hole dug by the bauxite company, left unfilled and so it collected water,” the letter stated.

“The bauxite company, six months now, dug a hole 80 feet and pressed the dirt to make a poorly constructed pond. A pond is supposed to have a slope but what has been created is just a ditch,” the letter continued.

It said that the company held a meeting with residents following the incident to inform them that it would be building a proper fence around the pond; however, this was rejected by the group which is contending that this will not prevent another tragedy from happening.

“They put four pieces of wire around it, nothing proper, and now they want to come say they are going to build proper fencing? Why dem never build it before? Dem just never care. And what makes it worse is that they planning to build another one in the area. How much more must we endure? We don't know what is in that pond, people can come dump bodies there; people can come do anything. There wasn't even any security there the day Rajaun go. Other children can end up the same way. We cannot take any more of this from Noranda. We did a petition against it when we realised what was happening, but Noranda did not listen to us. We don't matter,” a resident who later spoke with the Observer North & East said.

A statement from Noranda, however, rejected claims that there was no security on duty at the time of the incident or that the company ever received a petition.

The company, in response to an Observer North & East probe, said that while the pond was still under construction at the time of the incident, it was “completely” surrounded by a barbed-wire fence in addition to the engagement of a security company to provide round-the-clock security of the area.

“We have not received any petitions against the building of any ponds in the areas in which we operate. The reservoir in the Belle Terre area is a water catchment reservoir designed to catch and retain natural rainwater, similar to a number of other reservoirs that we have installed around St Ann parish. These reservoirs allow for the more effective use of natural water to help control dust in and around our mining areas, as well as provide for a sustainable source of water for agricultural and greenhouse developments. These are a major part of our reclamation and community programmes for the areas in which we operate,” the statement said.

In the meantime, Rajuan's mother Cheryl Lamey was grief-stricken when she spoke to Observer North & East, Thursday.

She said Rajaun, who was the youngest of three children, had left home to go play in the community, as he often did, but failed to return home later that evening.

That is when she became worried and began contacting family members who said that they had not seen the little boy.

The police were then contacted.

“Mi nuh sleep the whole night. Then in the morning we find him over the pond. Mi just not doing good at all. Mi cyaah take this easy. Mi just get the call seh the autopsy a Monday (today). Everybody just a wait fi the autopsy fi find out what really happen because nobody couldn't imagine fi seh him alone would go over there; what happen fi make him go over there just like that. Mi never imagine that this would happen,” a visibly distressed Lamey stated.

Rajaun's uncle Everoy Bennett, meanwhile, said the boy would always visit his home after school to play with his cousins.

Bennett said on the day Rajaun went missing he had greeted the family while riding past on a bicycle.

“Inna the night about 11 o'clock dem call me seh dem can't find him. First thing in my thought is that him probably up a mi tank so mi go up a my tank and go look and mi nuh see him inna the tank. When mi look mi see police light start to flash all around. So mi go my bed after hours,” Bennett shared.

He said early the next day he tried contacting Lamey but got no answer. He said he called again and at that time was told that they had discovered Rajuan's body in the pond.

“Mi lock off mi stove and run go down there and only could see a shadow. When the sun come up we see him lie down pon him face. It was rough I tell you, boy. That pond should a more secure than that. I said to them the other day that you have some unsound mind people down here... anything can happen to them. So they start to work on the pond,” said Bennett.


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