MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw is cautioning that, although if properly managed this south-central parish has in excess of 15 years of bauxite mining remaining, there needs to be focus on life after the industry.
“… It would be a dangerous mistake if we do not plan for life after bauxite and alumina,” he told political and business leaders at the Manchester Bauxite and Alumina Industry Conference held at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) on Thursday.
The conference, which was organised by the Anthony Freckleton-led Manchester Parish Development Committee, in partnership with the Ministry of Transport and Mining, focused on the state of the bauxite and alumina industry and its effects.
Minister Shaw said the extraction of rare earth minerals is fundamental to assessing the way forward.
“The future of the extractives industry will include the exploration and development of other minerals such as limestone. Incidentally, we have the largest limestone deposits in the entire Caribbean region,” he said.
He added that the exploration of the country’s natural resources is pivotal.
“We have at least one investor [who] has invested substantial amounts of money targeting rare earth minerals, and the preliminary indication that we have [is that] Jamaica is a blessed country. We have resources. There is gold in this country, there is copper in this country, there are other rare earth minerals in this country and we have reached that point now where we have to spread out our ways beyond bauxite and look for other God-given items that we have in this country,” he reasoned.
More than $1 billion has been spent by mineral exploration company Geophysx Jamaica Limited following preliminary findings from a series of exploration activities done locally, through which it seeks to confirm commercial finds in gold, copper and rare earth minerals.
It is considered to be the largest exploration programme in the mining industry outside of bauxite, as it relates to the project which began in April 2018.
Minister Shaw said the transformation of the industry will benefit communities.
“A key strategy of Jamaica’s national minerals policy is to transform the bauxite communities’ development programme into a minerals community development programme — extending investment to communities that have been impacted by general mining activities beyond bauxite, and facilitating community development from resources generated from the sector,” he said.
The Manchester North Eastern Member of Parliament pointed out that there are plans for the development of haul roads into public roads to facilitate the improvement of the Manchester road network system.
“We want to use Manchester as a model for other parishes where mining is taking place. We want to use this as the standard at which we operate. There are numerous challenges, including the absence of piped water in some communities, but we are on the right track to ensure that the industry is beneficial to the country as a whole,” he assured.