Bauxite is one of Jamaica’s main exports and primary sources of foreign income, grossing more than US$900 million during 2005 and predicted to earn over US$1.018 billion during the next fiscal year. However, as bauxite is surface mined, large tracts of land can be left barren after the commercial operations have moved on.

Now, the Government has embarked on a programme to start changing that. Dianne Gordon, head of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute’s Land Division, said: “The JBI as a matter of policy is directly facilitating programmes to get more farmers actively involved in producing crops on mined-out bauxite lands, while at the same time forging special marketing arrangements for the crops being grown under the programme. The matter of putting mined-out, reclaimed land to productive and profitable use is a priority for the Government, especially in light of the growing demand for residential, agricultural and public uses.”

As a result, more mined out lands are being used for agricultural projects, tenant farming, resettlement housing, playing fields, and small industrial facilities. In addition, the JBI has conducted research into which crops can grow most profitably on mined outlands.

Plots of cassava, tomatoes, peanuts and pineapple have sprung up across the former mine lands, with yields of some crops exceeding the national average.

In addition to agriculture, some of the land is being used for housing purposes.

However, over 25% of all mined out lands remains unused, a situation the Government wants amended. To this end the Government introduced a penalty of US$25,000 per hectare on any mining company disturbs an area for mining and doesn’t bring it back to certification within two years.

Companies with a significant backlog of reclaimed lands have to submit an action plan for dealing with them.

The programme of reclamation has been made possible through the introduction of a levy on bauxite which was then channelled in to the Capital Development Fund. This lends support for communities where bauxite companies are situated. In December 2005, the government approved US$261 million to be spent from the fund on community development programmes which will be spent between January and March 2006.

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