Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean. It forms part of the West Indies and is among the largest islands in the Caribbean behind Cuba and Hispaniola Island. The country is situated 90 miles south of Cuba and 100 miles to the west of Haiti. The country is considered to have a mixed economy but is seen to rely overwhelmingly on the service sector particularly on tourism and finance. The country's GDP is $26.06 billion while the GDP per capita is $9,200. The service sector contributes an estimated 71.2% to the GDP while industry and Agriculture contribute 21.3% and 7.5% respectively to the GDP. The economy of the country has evolved remarkably over the years from heavy reliance on the agricultural sector to the mining, manufacturing, and service sectors. Jamaica's natural resources include bauxite, Limestone, gypsum, as well as an ideal climate favoring agriculture and tourism.
Jamaica's Natural Resources
Interest in Jamaica's bauxite deposits began in the 1940s through development and exploration by the Alcan, Reynolds, and Kaiser Companies. The newfound interest in Jamaica's Bauxite deposits was sparked by an increase in global demand for aluminium during and after World War II. Jamaica's bauxite deposits were however not used during the war as the three companies from North America were beginning to survey and start operations. Exports of the mineral began in the year 1952 led by Reynolds followed by Kaiser a year later. Alcan, on the other hand, set up an alumina processing plant and began exportation in the year 1952 as well. By 1957, Jamaica had become one of the largest bauxite producers in the world with a production capacity of up to 5 million tons per annum. Rapid growth led to Jamaica becoming the second largest exporter of alumina in the world owing this to increased investment in refineries by companies involved in bauxite mining as well as foreign investment from companies such as Alcoa. Jamaica has since been surpassed by other countries such as Australia, China, India, Brazil, and Guinea. Currently, the country produces about 7% of total global production. Jamaica still holds some of the largest deposits Karst of terra rosa type of bauxite which is regarded to be of very high quality and is found in hollows of weathered Cretaceous white limestone outcrops which are found in large parts of the island.
70% of Jamaica's surface area is comprised of limestone. There are five major geological classes of limestone in Jamaica namely, Coastal Limestone, White Limestone, Yellow Limestone, Eocene Limestone, and Cretaceous Limestone. Coastal Limestone is mainly reefal material and rubbly limestone, while white limestone consists of pure, fine grain, white, soft marls; nodular rubbly limestone; fine-grained hard limestone, hard recrystallized limestone, and hard fossiliferous limestone. Colors of white limestone vary from white, grey, cream, pink, yellow and brown. Yellow limestone is considered impure limestone as it contains sand, clay, shales, and fossils, it is mainly yellow. Eocene limestone is distinctly hard, compact and grey limestone. Cretaceous Limestone is dark grey to black and is so hard and compact. Limestone is generally formed in marine conditions which suggest that the island was at one point submerged in the sea before later reemerging. The extraction of limestone is usually done through quarrying of open pits. Vegetation covering the deposit is usually removed first to expose the limestone. Soft deposits are extracted through heavy equipment while harder deposits are blasted.
Gypsum is mainly found in eastern St. Andrew in the Port Royal Mountains. It is mainly extracted through quarrying and is used in cement production. It is normally mixed 1 part gypsum and 20 parts cement. Most of the gypsum produced in the country is exported to the US.
Deposits of marble are found on Mt. Auburn, Serge Island, and areas around St. Thomas. The color of deposits at Bath is mainly white while deposits in Clydesdale are black. Marble is used as an ornamental stone.
High-grade quartz sand is found in the Black River region. The deposits are normally irregular surface deposits. The purest deposits are used for the production of flint glass.
Small deposits of high-grade iron ore can be found on the slopes of the Blue Mountain Range. Magnetite-ilmenite sands are found in areas around the Alligator Pond. Copper deposits can be found in Swift River and Rio Grande districts, Charing Cross-Bella Gate area, Upper Clarendon, and Port Royal Mountains. The copper deposits are however not economically viable. Occurrences of lead and zinc have also been reported in the Hope District. The deposit was briefly exploited in the 1800s and later abandoned.
Oil and Gas
In recent years exploration of oil and gas deposits has increased. Presence of carbonaceous shales is an indication that the small island nation could have petroleum deposits. Companies such as Tullow Oil PLC have expressed keen interest in the sector. Reports from the company indicate that 10 of the 11 offshore and onshore wells have oil and gas. Some of the offshore areas which have been identified to the south of the island have indicated good exploration potential. Presence of oil has also been announced in the Trelawny parish after oil seeped to the surface, the findings are being evaluated for commercial viability.
Environment Impact of Mining in Jamaica
In the last five decades, mining activity, particularly bauxite mining companies, have led to the loss of tree cover in 5,099 hectares of land and the loss of 3,214 hectares of forest cover. The massive amounts of environmental degradation are caused by the use of open cast mining as a preferred mineral extraction method which primarily involves the complete removal of surface vegetation cover to expose mineral deposits. Government agencies, however, blame illegal logging and the continuous use of firewood as the primary cause of deforestation. Jamaica has, however, put much emphasis on rehabilitation and reclamation of mined-out land. Orchard crops and grass are normally planted on reclaimed land. The land rehabilitation project is deemed one of the most successful in the world.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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