THE Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) suffered another setback on Thursday when a formal signing of a new contract to utilise its service in the mining sector was postponed.
In a release to the press, the Ministry of Transport and Mining announced plans to sign a contract with the Mineral Agency for Retail and Logistics (MARL) to commence use of JRC's railway infrastructure for commercial movement of industrial minerals and aggregates. This agreement would have marked the latest major step by the Ministry of Transport and Mining to attract support for the efforts of the JRC to facilitate the growing capacity for the use of the train service by miners, as well as continuing to seek support from the industrial sector.
Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw was not available for comment when contacted on Thursday, but a source confirmed that there has been increased efforts to attract the attention of mining companies.
He explained that while companies like Discovery Bauxite (Noranda) have their own independent rail service in the Discovery Bay area of St Ann, the Clarendon-based Jamalco uses JRC trains to transport bauxite between Hayes mines and Rocky Point in Clarendon.
"It is something that we have been working at for some time now, and we believe that it will continue to grow with the return of [Chinese-owned] JISCO in St Elizabeth and the resumption of normal bauxite operations in the Cockpit Country area," said the source who wished not to be named.
He noted, however, that there is some uncertainty about the Nain-based JISCO plant which was shut down in 2019.
According to him, "JISCO has been playing a wait-and-see game, and we just have to see how things work out with Discovery [Noranda] this year, as you know there is a legal issue resulting from the recent ruling by the Supreme Court regarding its operations in that mining area".
The Supreme Court ruled in January that Discovery should cease mining operations in the Cockpit Country until the court meets and makes a ruling on mining in that protected area.
New Day Aluminium (Jamaica) Limited, the managing partner of Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners II, formally changed its name to Discovery Bauxite Operations Limited in May 2022, completing a formal rebranding that started last year. However, the change has not affected the company's operations and it has continued using the name Noranda Bauxite.
The Jamaica Railway, constructed in 1845, was the first line opened to traffic outside Europe and North America. The rail service was established in the United Kingdom in 1825, the United States in 1830, and Canada in 1836.
In October 1992 public rail transport services finally ceased operating in Jamaica, although private industrial lines continue to operate in part today.
Public passenger service resumed when an inaugural train operated from May Pen to Linstead on April 16, 2011. Currently the train service, mainly for students travelling between Old Harbour and Spanish Town, as well as Linstead-Spanish Town, restarted last year.