Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bauxite never had meaning to me before this!

We live in the parish of Manchester. Renee is an honor student at a school in the Manchester parish that was organized 40 years ago to fill the academic and social needs of expatriot children. These expatriots were brought to Jamaica to work in the bauxite mining production, the greatest export that Jamaica has. Third largest producer following Australia and Guinea.

Up till now, the bauxite mining industry was a significant source of employment. In 1956, the year I was born, the nation's take from bauxite went from US 2.2 million to US 11.7 million 2 years later. Imagine what the nations take was in most recent years. The 1950's figures are small potatoes compared to the nineties. I read in one article that right here in Mandeville there is US 300 million dollars worth of bauxite.

Aluminium is made from bauxite. The photo above is the field right here where we live. It has become increasingly quiet. Some of my friends husbands have been employed with Windalco. The company has 2 plants and the one pictured above is here in Manchester. They have now closed the plant due to declining global demand for aluminium. Chemists and engineers have now returned to their native countries.

It is always fascinating to me to follow the trucks that you know came from the field because although they may have been painted white, the only visible color is red. Bauxite red! Come to think of it, I haven't seen any of those trucks lately.

Another interesting fact about the bauxite field is that the dirt remaining has no value.In the process of extracting the bauxite, all vital nutrients are stripped as well and the dirt is absolutely worthless.

Now that the mining has stopped and foreigners have returned home, I wonder what will happen to these fields. In 50 years will Jamaicans look at photos and say, I remember when this development was just a red field. Look at what it is now!

Which brings me to my pondering, what will happen to Belair? The school initially began as an international school and eventually was governed by the Jamaicans. Today it is basically a Jamaican private school with a few whities interspersed like Renee! I sure hope just because the demand for aluminium has decreased that Belair won't go into decline because of the economic crisis.

Renee has had an incredible year in Belair. I am so grateful that we live in Manchester parish so that she can be an alumni of a great school.Funny the things that had no meaning even a year ago, today have tons of meaning and ramifications. So goes life!

1 comment:

  1. Well, as they say, "you learn something new every day"! I had no idea bauxite was mined in Jamaica. I also did not know the world demand for aluminum (or is it "aluminium"?) was on the decline! If they ever do a B.G.M.C. "Go 360" video piece about Jamaica, maybe it can feature Renee talking about that!!