Manchester leaders defend life after bauxite

BROADLEAF, Manchester — Minister of Mining Floyd Green and leaders in this south-central parish are adamant there is life after bauxite, citing that more than $1 billion in investments have been returned to mining-affected communities.

Green, who is also minister of agriculture, said Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) has been directed to develop an orchard programme in Broadleaf.

“I have said to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute that in all of our bauxite mining areas we must have an agricultural-based project. I know that for years the Broadleaf community used to be known for its agriculture, and a lot of people unfortunately have turned away from it because they say they need some support,” said Green, who was speaking at the opening of the recently renovated Broadleaf Health Centre last Tuesday.

“Broadleaf has a wonderful climate [which is] good for fruit tree production… We know the crops that can be grown on former mining lands. Already in some communities we have a wonderful castor bean programme,” added Green, who also mentioned that over the years, since 1996, more than $1 billion has gone back into communities.

General manager at JBI Yolanda Drakapoulos said communities have benefited significantly from the contributions of the industry.

“Bauxite is doing something for Jamaica, has done many things over the years [but] we just don’t get the credit for it. We are trying to change that,” she said.

She pointed to the Bauxite Community Development Programme.

“The main goal of the programme is to reinvest earnings from the industry by implementing long-term, sustainable projects such as housing resettlement and agriculture on mined-out lands,” she said.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that agriculture can’t take place on mined-out land — we are doing it very successfully. We also have community development [in areas] which are affected by bauxite mining and alumina operations; ultimately, it is to lead [to] improvements in the standard of living in the affected bauxite parishes to ensure that there is life after bauxite,” she added.

Custos of Manchester Garfield Green said the bauxite mining industry has improved many lives.

“I am one who believes that the bauxite industry has invested in people, families, communities, and in this country. Yes, they have changed the shape of the lands but you can still farm on them,” he said. “Let us dispel the notion that bauxite companies have destroyed our communities because many of us are better off because of the bauxite industry.”

Moreover, the mining minister said the renovation of the Broadleaf health facility has been expanded.

“Broadleaf Health Centre never got the sort of maintenance that it needed to ensure that it could remain operational… What was a small one- or two-million-dollar project morphed into over $11 million… What we have done through the years is that we have recognised that as bauxite impacts communities we have to take some of the bauxite resources and put it towards building back communities and helping to make communities better,” Green said.

“We have expanded the waiting area. We have constructed additional rooms to accommodate staff. We have renovated the room that they use as their storage area. We have created a parking area. We have repaired the restroom and the fixtures. We looked at what was, unfortunately, a termite infestation and we treated that. We also did painting and a facelift,” he added.

Approximately 5,000 residents of the Broadleaf and surrounding areas are expected to benefit from the health centre. The centre was previously closed for almost two years, resulting in residents having to travel to Mandeville or Porus for health-care services.

Member of Parliament for Manchester Central Rhoda Moy Crawford said Broadleaf is set to benefit from road rehabilitation through funding from JBI.

“The people of Broadleaf said they want better roads… The bauxite institute has allocated $8 million to us, so the next time visitors come you will have carpet from the Porus entrance [and] from the Comfort entrance,” she said.

Broadleaf resident Winston King said he was elated to see the health centre reopened.

“Feeling so happy to know that we have a clinic in our area. If anyone gets sick in our area we know we can come to the clinic for care. We are so happy for the clinic reopening and the support of our representative. Before now we had to go to Porus or Mandeville and have a long wait but this one so close to us now can help us to get care fast,” he said.