By Barbara Ellington
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (DPI) – State Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Franklin Witter, is urging stakeholders in the mining sector to begin now to plan for a future beyond bauxite.
“We know that bauxite is a diminishing asset, with mining in Jamaica having just another 30 to 40 years to go. We must now look at life after bauxite and we must now turn to a product like limestone, which occupies 70 percent of Jamaica’s land space,” he said.
Witter was addressing a meeting of the Bauxite Subcommittee of the Manchester Parish Development Committee (MPDC) held on Friday (October 27) at the Tropics View Hotel in Mandeville.
The state minister said there is opportunity to leverage the link between farming and mining to address some of the challenges affecting the agriculture sector, including access to land and water.
He noted, for example, that stakeholders can work together to provide mined-out spaces for water harvesting to support agriculture.
Witter said that the matter of reclamation of mined-out lands has been a sore point over the years and “we have to ensure that we look at the rules, regulations and conditions, so that companies abide by them, and how these lands can aid in agriculture”.
MPDC chairman, Anthony Freckleton, for his part, highlighted the need to urgently address the matter of outstanding titles for residents who had sold lands to bauxite companies from as far back as 2002.
He further cited the long-standing issue of the mud lake at Kendal, which is a dust nuisance during dry periods and a potential groundwater contamination source when there is too much rain, and the informal settlement north of the mud lake.
Principal director mining/minerals policy and development, Dr Oral Rainford, in his response, said the ministry is working to speed up the pace of distribution of land titles.
“If, on average, we are producing 350 to 400 titles per year, over the last 15 years, we have another 10 years before the process is complete. This cannot continue, and we hope to improve by the next budget cycle. It’s not that nothing has been happening, but we have been moving too slowly,” he said, lamenting that there are persons who have been waiting as many as 20 years for their title.
Dr Rainford said that one reason for the delays is that some people die intestate but noted that the division is working through these issues in collaboration with the National Land Agency (NLA), Commissioner of Lands, the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) and the director in the ministry with responsibility for titles.
He noted that the matter of the informal settlement is also being addressed along with the closing out of the Alcan Kirkvine plant.
Dr Rainford informed that he, along with a team from the ministry of finance and the public service, visited the area recently.
“We went to all the facilities, inclusive of the plant, red mud lake and wells because we, too, have been looking at life after bauxite and how we can utilise some of the assets in place. We are moving to put in place the mechanism for the closure of the plant,” he said.