The Fight Against Mining in Jamaica’s Rainforest

The Maroons, descendants of Indigenous people on the island nation, are blocking the government’s plan to move bauxite mining to their ancestral land.
September 24, 2021, 6:55pm
Chief Richard Currie, an elected official in Cockpit Country, Jamaica, displays a document showing mining areas. (Photo by Bernardo Garcia)
Chief Richard Currie, an elected official in Cockpit Country, Jamaica, displays a document showing mining areas. (Photo by Bernardo Garcia)

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.

To the residents of that area, this means war.

Cockpit Country is the ancestral home of the Maroons, the descendants of indigenous people and formerly enslaved Africans who joined together to fight British colonizers. 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.

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“Our ancestors fought for the land, fought for the freedom of self-determination, of existing within what we knew as home. So it's the same thing, as we're looking at our territory being encroached on by miners,” says Chief Richard Currie, an elected official in Cockpit Country. “It's not guns, spears, knives, and all-out bloody war… Doesn't mean it's not a war.” 

Bauxite ore is essential to making aluminum, and mining it causes a range of environmental issues. The mining itself strips the soil, making land unfarmable. Residents who live near aluminum refineries are plagued by red dust, a chemical-filled byproduct 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 Currie isn’t backing down: “The Cockpit Country is Maroon territory; we have to preserve it,” he said. “The people will defend what’s theirs.”

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CREDITS: 
VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Sophie Kazis, Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca, Julia Nutter, and Sayre Quevedo. Our senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Our associate producers are Sam Egan, Steph Brown, and Adreanna Rodriguez. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone, Pran Bandi, Natasha Jacobs and Kyle Murdock. 

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Our executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio. 

Fact Checking by Nicole Pasulka. 

Our theme music is by Steve Bone. Our host is Arielle Duhaime-Ross.

From iHeart executive producers Nikki Eee-TOR and Lindsay Hoffman. 

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SCRIPT:

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VICE News Reports

[BONFIRE / INSECT SOUNDS]

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: This particular spot was the same spot where Cudjoe and the warriors would gather. Right, so these same stones that you’re seeing here are the same ones that they would sit on. 

[MUSIC]

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: These trees are over three hundred years old and still bears fruit today. 

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: This is the birth ground of the revolutionary warriors who defeated the British. It’s very sacred, sacred ground. You're in the heartland of Maroon territory.

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ALZO SLADE: I’m down here in Jamaica in an area that they call Cockpit Country. It’s still governed by the Maroons - the descendents of the indigenous people and formerly enslaved Africans who defended this piece of dirt, and fought off the British almost 300 years ago -- they kicked the colonizers’ asses.

WOMAN 1: When you know you have ancestors like we do… we’re the ones who burned the plantations. Don’t play with us.

ALZO SLADE: Today these folks in Cockpit Country are fighting a new battle.
WOMAN 2: We don’t want any mining in our Cockpit, we need to preserve our Cockpit.
MAN 1: No mining in the Cockpit Country, NO mining in the Cockpit Country. We’re a state and if we say no mining, that means no minning.

ALZO SLADE: It’s again to protect their land …. But this time, it’s from the mining industry. 

MAN 2: We're not, we're not, we're not moving. We're not moving. We're not moving, not moving and start all over. I get, nah, not moving.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: We've always maintained the culture, maintain the heritage, maintain the land.  We've never walked away from the legacy that we knew our ancestors left for us. So it is us who should lead that stand in defense of the territory. These are our lands. 

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[MUSIC FADES, VICE NEWS REPORTS THEME]

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: For decades bauxite has been Jamaica’s red gold

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Jamaica is a perfect vacation spot, but Jamaica now is doubly important, because here has been discovered bauxite

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Despite protests from Jamaicans at home and, and the diaspora for several years, the Jamaican government is still moving ahead with plans to mine bauxite in the Cockpit Country, Jamaica's largest natural rain forest

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Cockpit country. Jamaica’s Heartland

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: The sensitivities around the cockpit country are not just environmental. They are also historical and cultural

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Right now we need some justice. We need justice causes right now

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: There is a delicate balance between the continuation of an industry and the sustainability of this country 

ARIELLE DUHAIME-ROSS: This is Vice News Reports, and I’m your host Arielle Duhaime-Ross.

ALZO SLADE: And I’m Alzo Slade.

ALZO SLADE: Excuse me, brother. How are you doing? I'm trying to get to Acompong. Can you help me out? Straight? I appreciate it. Thank you. That’s Jamaican GPS, here it works better than Google Maps, Waze, any of them. 

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ALZO SLADE: Good afternoon 

WOMEN: Good afternoon

ALZO SLADE: I’m looking for Chief Richard Currie.

WOMEN: Up in the town.

DUHAIME-ROSS: Hey Alzo. 

ALZO SLADE: What’s up, what’s up.

DUHAIME-ROSS: So Alzo, who is Chief Currie?

ALZO SLADE: Young fella, he’s kind of suave.

ALZO SLADE: Pleasure to meet you.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Pleasure to have you here my brother. 

ALZO SLADE: Oh man, it's good to be here.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Welcome. The ancestors are greeting you.

ALZO SLADE: I receive that, I receive that. 

ALZO SLADE: He’s the youngest of a council of four Maroon chiefs who lead this territory in Jamaica - Cockpit Country.


CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: What we won't allow is sitting back much longer to allow our offsprings to be deprived of that freedom of choice to live off that land, and benefit from that land as we have.


ALZO SLADE: After the Maroons kicked the British’s ass in the 1700s, they signed a treaty - and the British were basically were like, ok, y’all got it. We give up, this is your land. So the descendents of the Maroons have had a claim to this land longer than the modern Jamaican government has been in existence. They live off the land, they’re self sufficient. 

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CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: If you look right on the edge of that hill right there, you can see that its somebody's farm.  If you look you can see banana trees in the top right there. You see cows right here. This is a farming community.

ALZO SLADE: Let me tell you, this place is beautiful. There's jungles, there's mountains. Springs coming up out of the ground with fresh water. I mean, you could literally just sip from these rivers and springs. Forty percent of Jamaica’s fresh drinking water comes from Cockpit Country.

ALZO SLADE:  What is at stake here If they allow mining to begin in this territory? 

ALZO SLADE: And it has the highest diversity of animals and plants anywhere on the island. So many endemic species. 


CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Mining strips the land of its minerals, all of its properties that are essential for growing our crops.


ALZO SLADE: So if you bring mining in to this place, you’re going to fuck all of that up.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: We've seen the evidence of what bauxite mining has done to farmlands and it's irreversible. 

[MUSIC]

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Money comes, and money goes. This we only have once. The Cockpit Country is maroon territory. The people will defend what's theirs.

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DUHAIME-ROSS: What is bauxite mining, what’s its history in Jamaica?

ALZO SLADE: Yeah. That's a very good question because you hear a bauxite and people like, what the hell is that, right?

[MUSIC]


{ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Here’s a lucky young lady planning her vacation to Jamaica. Yes, Jamaica is a perfect vacation spot. But now Jamaica now is doubly important to the whole free world. Because here has been discovered bauxite.

ALZO SLADE: So after Jamaica gained its independence from the British, colonization pretty much changed clothes and was now in the form of a largely foreign owned tourism industry.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Only a few hours from the United States, a beautiful tropical island rising from the blue Caribbean sea

ALZO SLADE: And then in the 1950s, bauxite was discovered.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made

ALZO SLADE: Bauxite is used to produce aluminum, you know they make planes with them. You go to a cookout and you want to take leftovers, you wrap your plate in foil.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Reynolds aluminum has been foremost in developing Jamaican bauxite. 

ALZO SLADE: And by the 1960s, Jamaica had become the world's leading exporter of bauxite, shipping out almost 5 million tons a year. That's a lot of money. 

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[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: More aluminum for the nation’s defense, and more aluminum for all your needs. From the vacation land of Jamaica. And the Reynolds metals company, pioneers of progress through aluminum

ALZO SLADE: Through the seventies and eighties, bauxite mining was a really big industry. These towns where the mining was happening, they were like, boom towns. People, you know, benefited from it. But this is the thing about mining, is that yo, once you dig it up, that's it. No more bauxite there. And so over time, this bauxite started to dwindle.

[MUSIC FADES]

ALZO SLADE: And around the same time, the Jamaican government, they saw these companies were making a whole bunch of money, but the bauxite profits, they weren’t seeing any of it. They were like no no no no, they can’t be making all of this money and taking it away from us. 

DUHAIME-ROSS: Right.

ALZO SLADE: So Jamaica started taxing the mining companies more.   And some of the companies were like, you taxe us, we’re going to leave. This led the bauxite industry in Jamaica to shrink. And now it’s just 3 percent of the economy, and provides fewer than 5000 jobs. Despite all that, the government keeps pouring money into this industry to support it and try to expand it. 

DUHAIME-ROSS: If the industry’s on life support, why do they keep trying to expand it?

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ALZO SLADE: It still is profitable, it’s just not as profitable as it once was. You have to look at the industries that Jamaica has. It's only a few of them.  There's tourism, agriculture and there's bauxite mining. And this bauxite mining is a legacy business. It's like an institution. These politicians, is almost like they’re attached to this idea that bauxite is going to save them. And there’s money to be made, but the ordinary folks in Jamaica, they aren’t seeing that money. And in many ways, the bauxite mining industry is harming them.

[MUSIC]

ALZO SLADE: Is there anywhere in this house where you can get away from the dust? 

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: No.

ALZO SLADE: As it stands, there's no mining in Cockpit Country, but all around cockpit country, there is mining. And so this gives us a good idea of what happens to these communities once mining begins. About 30 miles south of Cockpit Country in St. Elizabeth parish, mining has been going on for decades.

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: This is the dust just from Monday and Tuesday.

ALZO SLADE: So this is just from one day?

ALZO SLADE: And one of the folks we had the good fortune to meet was a very, very spiritual woman.

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: We no have a clean environment. So we cannot stay here any longer.

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ALZO SLADE:  Her name is Ms. Malverny McCloud. 

ALZO SLADE: How far are we from the mud lake?

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: Ah see mud lake, through the trees.You can see the Mud Lake.

ALZO SLADE: The mining company near where she lives stores, it stores it’s toxic waste from the mining in a lake within eyesite of her front door. Ms. McCloud and everybody else in the community, they call it the mud lake.


ALZO SLADE: Uh, yeah I see, see through, right through the limbs.

DUHAIME-ROSS: And so this mud lake is just full of bauxite mining waste. 

ALZO SLADE: Yeah, it's miles of like this open storage for toxic chemicals, that are the result of aluminum refining. And when it dries, it becomes cracked earth. It looks like the surface of Mars, almost.  And the red dust blows out of it, over EVERYTHING. 

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: Everything damage, everything.  Sometimes you stand up and wonder how the dust get all into you, get into your underwear? Scratch. Scratch. Scratch your butt!

ALZO SLADE: It’s all over her furniture, her body, and it gets into her water supply.

ALZO SLADE: But this is in the back of the house. How does the dust get back here.

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: Everywhere! Everywhere.

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ALZO SLADE: And you have to understand these folks don't have central air conditioning out there in the country and these jungles and the mountains.

DUHAIME-ROSS: You gotta be able to keep your windows open. 

ALZO SLADE: You have to be able to keep your windows open.

MALVERNY MCCLOUD: I don’t know if you understand what Malverny McCloud stand up in her house telling you today, if you understand the REAL, what we are going through with this mud lake. It’s not pretty, it’s not a bed of roses. We live in hell. When we work so hard to live comfortable.

[MUSIC OUT]

DUHAIME-ROSS: So what you're describing to me right now, like what is happening with Ms. McCloud like that is the future that cockpit country is trying to avoid.

ALZO SLADE: Absolutely. These folks in Jamaica, they've seen what bauxite mining has done to communities and they refuse to let it happen in Cockpit Country. 

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: So what we're doing now is marking along the boundary. 

ALZO SLADE: But right now, mining is happening all around the Cockpit - So at the moment this whole fight over mining is focused on a very important border

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: This is how we're marking our territory. Army Green with the Red M in the center to indicate Maroon territory. 

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ALZO SLADE: It’s not just Chief Currie and the Maroons who want to preserve this land because of their historic connection to it. There are a whole lot of people who don’t want to see bauxite mining there. So almost a decade ago, the Maroon chiefs joined a bunch of people and organizations around this area.  And they all sat down to define the boundaries of the Cockpit Country. As a way to basically lay down a line, no mining beyond this point.  Then, in November 2017,


[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: We were able to bring all the perspectives together and we agreed upon a boundary to the Cockpit Country 

ALZO SLADE: The Prime Minister Andrew Holness gives a speech. . . 

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]:  PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: That boundary will be enshrined in law, and within that boundary there will be no mining

ALZO SLADE: This is ok, we’re getting somewhere.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: The prospect of mining is not something that we contemplate easily

ALZO SLADE: But here's the thing. This Cockpit Country Protected Area that was created by the Prime Minister, it is different from what the Maroon chiefs and the other people of Cockpit Country wanted. The government said ,sure sure, no mining in Cockpit Country, EXCEPT for this one huge piece of land that they carved out, where mining COULD happen: special mining lease 173, or as they call it SML 173.

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DUHAIME-ROSS: So if the government says they are going to protect this area, why did they leave this particular part out? 

ALZO SLADE: Ah, I see. Now we getting, now we get into the good part. Now we get into the juicy part. Because I had the same question, right?

ALZO SLADE: Mr Dixon?

HUGH: Yes sir.

ALZO SLADE: How are you doing sir.

ALZO SLADE: And so that confusion led us to meet this guy, Hugh Dixon.

ALZO SLADE: You got that strong Jamaican handshake. That’s a sign of trust.

HUGH DIXON: Trust!

ALZO SLADE: He’s the Executive Director of of the Southern Trelawny environmental group.one of the organizations that defined the boundaries of Cockpit Country.

HUGH DIXON: You'll notice up here where it deviates from the recommended boundary.

[MUSIC]

ALZO SLADE: This is conveniently left out because 

HUGH DIXON: Conveniently, yes. For bauxite mining.

ALZO SLADE: And what Hugh told me is that there is a US company named Noranda, that owns the lease to this land and stands to profit from mining it. BUT it’s not just Noranda that will profit if this part of Cockpit Country is mined. 

HUGH DIXON: The government of Jamaica is a 51 percent shareholder with Noranda in a company called Noranda, Jamaica Bauxite Partners II. 

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ALZO SLADE: The Jamaica government is actually a shareholder in a mining company created specifically to mine SML 173. 

HUGH DIXON: So that every bit of bauxite you see on the rail line, heading to the discovery bay port, the government will take 51%

ALZO SLADE: Arielle, to be clear, the government stands to make money, if this area is mined. 

HUGH DIXON: They were elected by those people to protect their welfare. And in fact, they join partnership with a foreign company to sell out the same people who elected them.

DUHAIME-ROSS: So how does Hugh feel about all this? 

[MUSIC OUT] 

ALZO SLADE: Hugh doesn’t want to see mining anywhere in this area, not in the Cockpit Country, not in Jamaica. But right now what he’s concerned about is this dispute over border. He does not want to see mining cross into Cockpit Country at all. He sees it as an affront to everything his ancestors fought for, and to the legacy he wants to leave to the future generations of this land.

ALZO SLADE: So Hugh… you all are in for a hell of a fight. 

[MUSIC] 

DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: So can you tell me if I have been to a protected zone because I would really love to know that.

ALZO SLADE: After talking to Hugh, I went to that border, between where the government is saying mining is allowed and where it’s not allowed, and when I was there, I met a woman, Dr. Winsome Whyte Williams. 

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DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: I am praying I am in this protected zone. 

ALZO SLADE: Who lives right on that line.

DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: I am praying all of us here is protected because we don't need this and we're not going to make anything out of it.

ALZO SLADE: And I wonder if if. Does this even matter because if your house is in the protected zone and just across the street is not, that's not protected, right? 

DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: Right. So my, my my darkest fears may come true.

ALZO SLADE: Just imagine, just imagine you're sitting at a restaurant and you're at a table and your table is non-smoking, but a table, two feet away from you is smoking and, that smoke is going to affect you.

DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: If I am even in the protected zone and over there is not protected, I'm still not protected because whatever happens over there is going to impact on me over here.

ALZO SLADE: People in the past have been intimidated or coerced into selling their property for cheap. Right? And then you take that money. Where are you going to go?  

DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: They move out some of the people that resettle them into areas that they couldn't do anything for themselves. Where the hell would we go? What would we have?

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ALZO SLADE: And if they don't sell. Right, they're made miserable by the mining noise and dust. And they're left with farmland where they can't grow crops anymore.  


DR. WINSOME WHYTE WILLIAMS: So we are going to be desperate. We are going to be a million times worse off that we are.  We don't have anybody to protect us. It's a terrible feeling.

DUHAIME-ROSS: … after the break, Cockpit country fights back

***BREAK***

[VICE NEWS REPORTS THEME]

DUHAIME-ROSS: So when we last left off you were talking to a resident on the border who is adamant that she does not want this bauxite mining at her front door.

ALZO SLADE: Absolutely. And I think she speaks for most of the folks in, in cockpit country because these residents, they're strongly opposed.

[HORNS]

ALZO SLADE: We met up with chief Curry again, and we went with him and his fellow Maroons to the border of SML 173. There's this looming cloud of bauxite mining around cockpit country in a way that nobody really knows when, or if it's going to start. But Chief Curry had heard that mining equipment was right at the border of the cockpit

[DRUMMING]

ALZO SLADE: And that these mining companies might be encroaching beyond that border to test the soil.

 ALZO SLADE: I see, I see you brought your squad with you. You rolling deep today.

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ALZO SLADE: He had a bus, a bus full of community folks that were wanting to go see what was going on.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: We got the elders, we got the, uh, we've got the, the drummers, we got the youth amongst us. Everybody is here."

DUHAIME-ROSS: ...kinda like a show of force?

ALZO SLADE: Yea, they had heard that these folks were encroaching upon their territory and they were there to see if the line was indeed being crossed.

ALZO SLADE: There’s a gentleman walking around pouring rum on everyone's hands out of respect for the ancestors and what they fought for, for the freedom to live on this land 

ALZO SLADE: They had the drumming, some singing.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: We saw two massive creators people for that moment and just know that it would be totally excavated, and there's a trail heading west.

ALZO SLADE: We see the bulldozers and, and we see security there.

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: So we assume that the next movement is westward towards the cockpits. 

[DRUMMING]

ALZO SLADE: Should the mining companies violate the sovereignty? What do you intend to do?

CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Well, there has to be recourse, right? We don't plan to just sit back and watch external parties violate and intrude on our life, right. So we don't intend to sit around and watch that happen. 

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CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: What are you going to do? Maybe I can’t say that on camera.

[MUSIC OUT]

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: We are in friends, a difficult situation, and the government is doing everything it can to balance all the considerations.  Mining is one of the economic drivers of the country. It is. 

DUHAIME-ROSS: So, Chief Currie and other people in Cockpit Country are accusing the government of neglecting their duty to protect people and the environment.

ALZO SLADE: That’s right. This is Prime Minister Andrew Holness responding to those accusations.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: We're not looking to destroy our environment. And it hurts me deeply when people accuse me of that. There are those who would want to shape the government in a narrative that it does not seek to protect the environmental assets of the people. I rubbish that narrative.

ALZO SLADE: The Jamaican prime minister is in a pretty tough spot here. Internationally Prime minister Holness, he positions himself as a climate leader. 

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS:  I'm always very sympathetic to the environmental cause  

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: Every decision that you make for development has to be with the environment first and foremost in mind.

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[MUSIC]

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS: we are partnering with others to ensure that our Marine environment on which our associate economic survival depends is being sustainably utilized and managed.

ALZO SLADE: Jamaica is really known for its beaches, you know, like Montego Bay, Negril... All that natural beauty is essential to the economy of the country -- but the beaches are not the only environment that needs protecting. Because Cockpit Country provides so much of the island’s drinking water, that if it’s destroyed, that can affect the whole of Jamaica… And we saw that just a couple weeks after I left the country, exactly what happens when bauxite waste gets into the water supply.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: All of the fish died, all of the fish died… 

[MUSIC OUT]

ALZO SLADE: In August, one bauxite company called Windalco spilled a bunch of waste from their bauxite plant, into this river, the Rio Cobre. This polluted the drinking water and killed thousands of fish, as far as 15 miles away.

[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]: Windalco… whole river covered… 

ALZO SLADE: And just imagine,  the people living near the river this was devastating for them. It was no drinking or irrigation water for days They couldn’t eat the fish from the river, 

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[ARCHIVAL RECORDING]:This thing can’t keep on going and going like this. What the government going to do about this. RIght now we need justice, we need justice towards this.   

ALZO SLADE: This is not the first time that bauxite mining has wreaked havoc on the water supply. And what’s crazy, it’s not even the first time this exact company has polluted this exact river.  This time they're being charged with violating the Wildlife Protection Act by the National Environment and Planning Agency. But the fines, when they happen at all, are so small. In this case, it’s just around a thousand dollars.

DUHAIME-ROSS: Wait, just a thousand dollar fine?

ALZO SLADE: Exactly, $1000, and the company Windalco, denies responsibility for the pollution.  In a statement to the media, they said they do not accept liability for the fish kill, but they are “taking steps to restore normalcy to the river.”

[MUSIC]

DUHAIME-ROSS: So you’ve got a man-made environmental disaster affecting much of Jamaica, and you've also got a prime minister who claims that he cares about environmental protection above all else… What’s standing in the way of stopping these crises? Stopping bauxite mining? At the very least keeping it out of Cockpit Country?

ALZO SLADE: I wish I could tell you what Prime Minister Holness is thinking. We reached out to his office for an interview, but he refused to speak with us. So did three other government officials. It does look pretty bad for the prime minister. It looks bad for him at home. AND it looks bad for him abroad, cause he's very sensitive to how he's perceived by Jamaicans in the diaspora. A lot of folks send money home to Jamaica, so he wants to keep them happy too. 

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[MUSIC]

ALZO SLADE: But, like I said before, there’s this long history with bauxite here. Even for critics, walking away from an industry that once gave you that money is hard.  So in a sense you can say that the Jamaican government is still kind of addicted to this idea of bauxite mining and what it can do for the country. But it doesn't do that anymore.

DUHAIME-ROSS: And Alzo, from your reporting it sounds like it’s generating so much controversy, pushback from people on the ground.

ALZO SLADE: Yea its a lot of pushback, and it seems to be working a little bit because the government does seem to be reacting to that -- in May they announced that they were basically going to shrink the possible mining in SML 173 -- they were going to take 23 square miles and make them unavailable for mining. 

But here is the thing, they didn't specify which parts of SML 173 that was, and Noranda was promised a different mining lease somewhere else on the island to make up for it. 

DUHAIME-ROSS: I’m sorry what?

ALZO SLADE: Yeah, but hold on, on top of that, all of SML 173 remains outside of that protected area of Cockpit Country. So all of this sounds a little bit iffy. It’s hard to see it as a full victory.

[MUSIC]

ALZO SLADE: Jamaica’s been colonized and extracted from in so many ways over the years. And Cockpit Country, this  is this rare piece of untouched land that’s not for tourists. These people govern themselves. And just like their ancestors before them, who kicked the asses of the British, I don’t think Chief Currie or the descendents of the Maroons are going to settle for anything less than the full preservation of their territory.

[MUSIC]

CHIEF CHIEF RICHARD CURRIE: Our ancestors fought for the land? You know, we fought for the freedom, of self-determination, of existing within what we knew as home. So it's the same thing we're looking at our territory being encroached on by miners.  It's not guns, spears, knives and all bloody war, doesn't mean it's not a war, right. This is an economic war. And so it's directly related to what our ancestors fought for, right. It's all bottled up, and tangled into this one single act of encroachment.

ALZO SLADE: Respect.

[THEME]


DUHAIME-ROSS: ​VICE News reached out to Noranda, and two other mining companies for comment. Two of the companies, JISCO and Noranda declined to comment.

However, one company, Windalco, did respond... acknowledging that their mining efforts have contributed to the relocation of Jamaicans based on QUOTE “amicable agreement with the persons and the company” 

They also stated that they have done many Environmental Impact Assessments --  and that the company uses that information to QUOTE “Further strengthen our Environmental Management Framework.” 

Special thanks to Eric Weinrib and Patricio Matos who produced and reported a version of this story for VICE News. You can watch their film at Vice.com, or on Youtube. 

VICE News Reports is produced by Jesse Alejandro Cottrell, Sophie Kazis, Jen Kinney, Janice Llamoca, Julia Nutter, and Sayre Quevedo. Our senior producers are Ashley Cleek and Adizah Eghan. Our associate producers are Sam Eagan, Steph Brown, and Adreanna Rodriguez. Sound Design and music composition by Steve Bone, Pran Bandi, Natasha Jacobs and Kyle Murdock. 

Our executive producer and VP of Vice Audio is Kate Osborn. Janet Lee is Senior Production Manager for VICE Audio.

Fact Checking by Nicole Pasulka. 

Our theme music is by Steve Bone 

From iHeart executive producers Nikki Ettore and Lindsay Hoffman. 

I’m Arielle Duhaime Ross.