Jamaica Bauxite Mining is ensuring that the country’s mining operations are profitable even after mineral reserves have been extracted.

While the Jamaican government is keen to expand mining activities in the country, “We also have a strong focus on sustainability, developing alternative revenue streams from our mining assets and ensuring continued success for lands that have been mined out,” said Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague.

One of the government’s main supporters in these areas is Jamaica Bauxite Mining (JBM). “JBM was set up in the 1970s as a wholly owned government company to hold equity in the bauxite industry,” said Coy Roache, its managing director. Today, its role is to oversee public mining investments, promote the sustainable advancement of the sector and to engage and support investors through, for instance, the facilitation of mining equipment. Additionally, it is responsible for the identification, development and management of new revenue streams from publicly owned mining lands.

JBM currently holds equity in two active mining ventures. It has a 7 percent stake in West Indies Alumina Co., with the remainder being owned by the global aluminum producer UC Rusal. This mining and refining company has annual production capacities of 0.6 million metric tons of alumina and 5 million metric tons of bauxite. Secondly, JBM holds a 51 percent share of the mining and export company Noranda Bauxite. Since 2016, its partner in this has been New Day Aluminum, with international trader Concord Resources being a minority shareholder. Having substantially increased its worldwide customers, Noranda’s mining lease was expanded in 2019 to cover more reserves, which should enable it to reach its bauxite target of 5.2 million metric tons a year.

JBM’s recent ventures are at the forefront of rehabilitating mined-out lands to benefit local communities. In one project, “We build greenhouses in cleared spaces and install solar energy to pump collected water into the soil. The quality of the resultant produce, which supplies the hotel industry, is exceptionally high,” said Roache.

Outside these partnerships, many of JMB’s activities relate to an estate of over 3,000 acres of publicly owned lands that were previously used for Reynolds Jamaica Bauxite Co.’s mining and export operations. Most of the estate is located in Lydford, although it includes an active port at nearby Ocho Rios. Although mining has stopped at Lydford, the site is thought to have remaining bauxite reserves worth up to $12 billion and JMB has been working with potential investors with a view to resuming mining on some of the estate. “However, we are also developing the land for other revenue streams,” stated Roache.

The transformation of mining lands

JMB already manages a rental portfolio of more than 40 residential, commercial and agricultural properties at Lydford but the company’s ambitions go further. “We aim to transform the area into an industrial and technology park,” he explained. To start this process, the estate’s airstrip is being made fully operational and large warehouse buildings will be renovated for business process outsourcing activities. “These will employ around 200 people and will be linked to an internship and hiring program that is connected to local colleges,” Roache said. “In addition, a major company is interested in manufacturing cement in the area as the raw materials are available on the estate,” noted Montague.

Today, JBM’s Ocho Rios Port handles the shipping of over 30,000 metric tons of sugar and 162,000 metric tons of limestone every year. Other activities that take place at the facility include the servicing of passenger and cargo ships, warehousing, dry docking and oil bunkering. To maximize the revenues of this port, JBM is exploring its redevelopment in partnership with the Port Authority of Jamaica. Its aim is to create a modern, multipurpose facility that will allow JBM to continue to satisfy its current clients while also enabling it to attract additional and larger vessels, and to receive and distribute hardware products.

In another revenue-generating initiative, JBM has leased some of its land on the seafront to Guardsman Hospitality, a leading hotelier and entertainment company, which will be developing the area into a world-class beach. According to Roache, who is also the deputy permanent representative of Jamaica to the International Seabed Authority, a further revenue stream exists beneath the waters that surround the island. “The world is moving to an electric future, which is going to require the extraction of far more copper and other minerals. We need to extract those minerals sustainably and that will drive the industry toward seabed mining,” he said.