Jamaica’s Maroon community is defying the increase of bauxite mining on its land.
Decades of bauxite mining have taken a toll on Jamaica’s land, and with the primary reserves depleted, the government wants to move mining operations for the major export ore into one of the most ecologically sensitive parts of the island - Cockpit Country. Residents are furious.
Cockpit Country is the ancestral home of the Maroons, the descendants of indigenous people and formerly enslaved Africans who joined together to fight British colonisers. They’ve held onto their claims to the land ever since. The lush area is home to Jamaica’s largest remaining rainforest, endemic species found nowhere else on the island or in the world, and 40 percent of Jamaica’s fresh drinking water.
Bauxite ore is essential to making aluminium, and mining it causes a range of environmental issues. The mining itself strips the soil, making land impossible to farm. Residents who live near aluminium refineries are plagued by red dust, a chemical-filled by product of the refining process that contaminates homes and water supplies, including local rivers.
But with the ore’s importance to Jamaica’s economy, the government is pushing on with the mining and has even partnered with foreign companies to exploit reserves. But the Maroons are resisting mining on their land.