Jamaica at 60 St Ann

NAME OF FEATURE | THE GLEANER | MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022 4 Paul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer JAMA I CA’ S POL I T I CA L Independence status and bauxite mining are two totally different concepts that can be, and have been, polarising in their own corners. In one, some people believe that the country is independent only on paper, but practically it is not, while many believe it is independent in every sense of the word. Bauxite mining, which started in St Ann in the early 1950s by Reynolds Jamaica Mines Limited, which was later joined by other multinational companies, is regarded a double-edge sword, one that has significantly contributed to Jamaica’s economic development, but has also destroyed the natural environment. And there are people who are of the view that bauxite mining has compromised the country’s independence status and sovereignty. They are contending that the governments of Independent Jamaica should have stopped the mining of the country’s natural resources by these big international companies. Our dependence on them to bring much-needed foreign exchange into the country does not say much for us as an independent nation and our ability to fend for ourselves. When the question of whether bauxite mining in Jamaica by international companies is compromising Jamaica’s independence and sovereignty status was posed to Facebook group, Cockpit Country Warriors, some of the shorter responses were: “Yes!”, “Jamaicans don’t have a say in our governance”, “Yes, it is a betrayal of our sovereignty”, “Sure”, “It just wrong”, “So sure”, “Of course, most definitely”, “Indeed!” and “Yes, but who allows it?”. DaleWilson said, “It’s the government that allows the companies into the country. The government is the people, they elect their leaders. If the people refuse their social responsibility, the international companies will arm twist the leaders by threatening the debts the country has…WhenMichael Manley was the leader, he kept the debt low, so Jamaica controls their destiny and preserve their Independence.” Bosbert Thar was right behind him with: “Mining in the Cockpit Country is surely a violation of your sovereignty. What rights do you have in regards to what they’re doing what say do you have in regards to their actions? No mining should be conducted in the Cockpit Country, it means too much to our country.” While Judith Peart is saying, “The government is to be held accountable, because they are responsible for allowing these companies to destroy the Cockpit. All there is to this is greed and destruction”, Stafford Hall is maintaining that, “The people ultimately are the ones who allow the kind of one-sided exploitation that takes place by re-electing those who lied to them in the first place!” Outside of the wider context of Jamaica’s political independence and sovereignty, people are saying bauxite mining has: eroded their own personal independence, displaced hundreds of people, destroyed family traditions, and wiped out the agricultural sector in some of the places where extensive mining was done. And though much of the dugout pits have been reclaimed for agriculture, including cattle-rearing, the great majority of them is left idle and useless, and the food that is cultivated therein is full of heavy metal which is harmful to their health. The region is punctuated with these pits, a telling story of the economic rape and pillage of the Cockpit Country. Long-time Lime Tree Garden resident and retired broadcast journalist, Al Gallimore, is a seasoned campaigner against the impact of bauxite mining. “As Jamaica celebrates its 60th Independence anniversary, up here in the mining community of southwest St Ann, we have our own heritage sites to celebrate. We are standing at one of the heritage sites. It’s a pit, one of the biggest pits. It’s about 600 feet long by 300 feet wide, and about 500 feet deep, and 40 years old, and we have been dumping carcasses of cars and trucks and dogs in it … for 40 years, and I’m sure, for the next 40 years it will still have space,” he said. He also told The Gleaner that bauxite mining in southwest St Ann has made the people desperate, destitute and dependent. He painted a picture of gloom, of the death of subsistence farming, the annihilation of the citrus industry, and the disappearing of rare birds, among other effects. With no steady streams of income, people have resorted to praedial and other types of larceny as their main source of getting money. Women are going around begging money to send their children to school. The only work available to them is to stand in the paths, signalling the drivers of heavy-duty equipment with green and red flags. The garbage dump at Tobolski is the place where people, animals, birds and other creatures compete for food. Eighty years after aluminium ore was identified in the soil at Phoenix Park, 70 years after the first shipment was made from the island at Ocho Rios, and 60 years after Jamaica’s political Independence, many people in St Ann are regretting the discovery of ‘red gold’ for it has brought wide-scale sufferation to them and destruction of their lives, compromising Jamaica’s Independence, and their dignity. Bauxite mining has made people destitute and dependent This plaque mounted at Phoenix Park, near Moneague in St Ann, tells the story of the discovery of bauxite in Jamaica, and the beginning of the bauxite industry. A section of a mined-out bauxite pit at Lime Tree Garden in St Ann. PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS jamaica at JAMAICA AT 60: ST ANN