My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica

Saturday, July 20, 2019

How allowing Limestone mining by Jamaica World and EPSA is Mining in the Cockpit Country


Jamaica seems to be on a tear to give away our mineral resources to foreigners. In the process, we are sacrificing pristine areas of unspoilt countryside, especially in the Cockpit Country area, in exchange for short term gains: money.  

A good example of this is Jamaica World, a mining startup that has partnered with Spanish mining company EPSA to develope limestone-processing operation near Rio Bueno as reported in the article “Start-Up Mining Company To Exploit North Coast For Aggregates”, published Friday July 19, 2019 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Jamaica World has already applied to NEPA (National Environment & Planning Agency) for a permit to mine 50 hectares of land within Bengal. This area is located between Rio Bueno, Trelawny and Discovery Bay in St Ann just 4 kilometres from the Trelawny parish border.

Their contract with this global mining giant is to:

1.      Extract high-quality limestone from an open-pit quarry in Rio Bueno
2.      Process it for sale

They plan to sell limestone as:

1.      Aggregate
2.      Pulverised limestone
3.      Quicklime
4.      Hydrated lime
5.      Lime slurry

The Rio Bueno area is close to the Cockpit Country, a protected nature sanctuary that was set to be off limits by the Prime Minister Andrew Holness in 2017 as noted in the article “Holness Declares No Mining Will Be Permitted In Cockpit Country Protected Area”, published Wednesday November 22, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So who is Jamaica World? And how did they manage to land a contract to sell limestone to EPSA when we have a local limestone and aggregate shortage?

Jamaica World and EPSA - 8 years to mine Limestone in Rio Bueno

Jamaica World, whose owners remain anonymous, has its fingers in the following business areas:

1.      Mining
2.      Real estate
3.      Renewable energy sectors

Aside from this project partnership with EPSA, Jamaica World has as their only 572 acres (231 hectares) of land in Jamaica.

It is not clear how the profits will be split between Jamaica World and EPSA. I suspect that EPSA will handle the export side of the business, while Jamaica World will handle getting drilling rights and permits for their various operations and split the profits accordingly.

They are entering a market that includes the likes of:

1.      Lydford Mining
2.      John’s Hall Aggregates
3.      Jamaica Aggregates

Jamaica World's partner on the project, EPSA, has over 20 years of specialization in earth-moving works and assets of over US$900 million. EPSA has operations in the following countries:

1.      Europe
2.      Africa
3.      America
4.      Asia Pacific
5.      Australia

Lydford Mining operates in St Ann and John’s Hall Aggregates operates two depots located in Falmouth and Montego Bay. Jamaica Aggregates has a plant in Yallahs, St Thomas, and Agualta Vale, St Mary.

The Bengal quarry site project, which has NEPA’s blessing, is projected to have a life of 30 years, if extracted at sea level. Jamaica World plans to mine the limestone in two phases over a 5 year period:

1.      Phase 1 will see 4 and a half years spent extracting limestone at a rate of one million tonnes per year.
2.      Phase 2 begin during the last 4 months when the company will be used to prepare equipment, decommission and commencement

Jamaica World will ramp up production during Phase 2 which covers 20 hectares. Phase 2 is expected to yield 15 million tonnes of mined materials over a three year period.

At 20 hectares, this final phase represents the largest area for extraction and should take extending their operations to about eight (8) years. Jamaica World plans to provide the following over this 8 year period:

1.      4,000,000 million metric tonnes of construction aggregates
2.      100 Jamaicans employed

The Jamaican Government will collect some JA$636 million in quarry taxation in addition to increased revenue from the tourism sector.

Jamaica World is targeting the north-western end of Jamaica for the sale of construction aggregates. This is expected to benefit from the growing tourism sector, as these aggregates will help them to build worker accommodation and other amenities; the rest EPSA will sell abroad for profit.

So what is Limestone?

History of Limestone - Limestone is Jamaica's Oil and Gold

Limestone is by definition a rock that contains at least 50% calcium carbonate. All limestone contain at least a few percent other materials; quartz, feldspar, clay minerals, pyrite, siderite, and other minerals.

Depending on how much of these impurities are present, limestone will have different colour and texture.

According to the Limestone Assessment Study published by Dr. Conrad Douglas, Jamaica is estimated to have some 150 Billion Tonnes of limestone as noted in the article “Limestone Resources Estimated At 150 Billion Tonnes - Next Challenge: Monetising The Mineral”, Published Friday November 22, 2013, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Of this amount, 50 billion tonnes can be easily accessed. The limestone in Jamaica is distributed as follows:

1.      60% of Jamaica by weight
2.      80% of the total surface coverage

Periodically, they may have to perform chemical assays from samples extracted via bore holes to make sure it remains pure. But it’s a simple task, with processing the limestone extracted being the only energy-intensive aspect of the Mining operation.

Other minerals produced by Jamaica were:

1.      Silica sand
2.      Gypsum
3.      Shale
4.      Pozzolan
5.      Marble
6.      Clay

Jamaica has some impressive Limestone production stats:

1.      72.673 million tonnes of industrial minerals in 2019
2.      89,531,000 tonnes tonnes of industrial minerals in 2017

In terms of Production volume of aggregates back in 2018:

1.      33.208 million tonnes of Limestone and whiting
2.      18.019 million tonnes sand and gravel
3.      17.241 million tonnes of marl

So why is limestone usage on the rise?

Why Limestone usage is on the rise - Fines for Illegal River miming a deterrent

The Jamaica World partnership filed this EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) to explain the shift towards using limestone, quote: "Traditionally, the use of crushed river aggregates has been the preferred raw material choice of concrete manufactures due to the combined factors of hardness, angularity, availability and relative ease of mining”.

So basically river aggregates were usually the aggregate of choice.

So much so that many illegal sand mining operations felt the crunch when the fines got higher as noted in the article “Illegal Quarries On The Decline - Multimillion Dollar Fine Among The Deterrents”, published Sunday December 23, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

However they pointed for following problems with getting river aggregates:

1.      The river sources for this material are located largely in the eastern section of the island.
2.      Exploitation of these reserves are constrained by the relatively long dry periods experienced over the past five to 10 years.

This, plus those fines for illegal sand mining from rivers has made it difficult to mine and manufacture construction aggregates. It has also made a switch to limestone more acceptable, to quote Jamaica World's EIA: “Limestone aggregates have consequently gained acceptance as an alternative material for use in the construction sector, provided the challenges of chemical purity, hardness and availability are successfully navigated”.

Aside from mining limestone for construction, what other potential uses does limestone have?

Jamaica's Limestone reserves - GCC and PCC for Pharmaceutical, Chemical and Metallurgical uses

Jamaica possesses three grades of limestone:

1.      Pharmaceutical
2.      Chemical
3.      Metallurgical 

Metallurgical grades are used primarily in the bauxite industry as slaked lime, which is a part of the Digestion process involved in the separation of alumina from bauxite. Extraction is fairly easy, requiring the miners in Jamaica to merely dig up the limestone, which is usually on the surface and sifted out from large stones and rocks.

Limestone can be processed into Value Added derivatives as stated in the article “Limestone Resources Estimated At 150 Billion Tonnes - Next Challenge: Monetising The Mineral”, Published Friday November 22, 2013, by Tameka Gordon, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This is based on the Limestone Assessment Study published by Dr. Conrad Douglas, who also listed the following Value Added derivatives:

1.      Limestone aggregate
2.      GCC
3.      PCC
4.      Quicklime
5.      Cut stones e.g. marble and alabaster

Of main interest to me is the derivatives that can be used for Pharmaceutical and Chemical purposes. These are:

1.      GCC (Ground Calcium Carbonate)
2.      PCC (Precipitated Calcium Carbonate) - used in fine chemical and pharmaceutical products

GCC is used in the making of:

1.      Paper
2.      Polishes
3.      Paints
4.      Rubber
5.      Glass
6.      Cosmetics
7.      Plastics
8.      Adhesives

PCC is used in the making of:

1.      Calcium supplements
2.      Laboratory Grade Calcium Oxide and Calcium Carbonate

The Dr. Conrad Douglas study shows that over the past five (5) years, Canada, United States and Mexico:

1.      Imported US$7.3 billion of limestone products 
2.      Exported US$4.4 billion of limestone products

Jamaica has the capacity to export limestone to Central, South and North America. We already export US$140 million in limestone aggregate to CARICOM and the Americas in the last five years.

Ironically, during that period, we imported some US$11.8 million of the limestone derivative quicklime. Thus, increased limestone mining can displace local demand and reduce foreign exchange outflows.

We could also compete with suppliers of GCC and PCC, easily competing and displacing them out of a market worth some US$371 million during that five year period.

So why is this a big problem?

History of the Rio Bueno - Why this is basically Mining in the Cockpit country

This is where it gets bad, as clearly NEPA slipped up! Either that, or these anonymous partners may be themselves politicians or wealthy people with some seriously good political connections!!!

Between 2001 and 2007, sections of Rio Bueno was mined by Argentine engineering and construction company Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles SA. The Queens Highway leg of the North Coast Highway  was constructed with 2 million tonnes of limestone from the site.

Five years later, Diamond Property Development Company applied to the Ministry of Energy and Mining. They were seeking to renew quarrying on Puerto Bueno Mountain, located between Rio Bueno and Discovery Bay.

The proposal was challenged by residents and environmentalists. The 450-acre mountain area, which was owned by Diamond Property Development Company, was recommended for protection by scientists since 1969 as one of the few remaining dry limestone forests in the Caribbean.

Environmental interests working to protect the area, have made the following claims:

1.      The site is in the same condition it did when Columbus dropped anchor off Jamaica in 1494
2.      The forest and rare and threatened species that inhabited it, would be destroyed by quarrying

Mining the Cockpit country is illegal. The benefits of limestone extraction might be great, but the damage that will be done to the environment will be inherited by future generations long after Jamaica World and EPSA have made their billions.

Jamaicans, please share this as we have to stop the Government of Jamaica from selling out our right to foreigners!!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

ATL Automotive and JPS islandwide Network of Electric Charging Stations by 2020


“It’s no secret that the future of the automotive industry is electric and that electric cars are set to overtake the sales of conventionally powered cars within the next decade”

CEO of the ATL Group and Sandals Resorts, Adam Stewart on plans to establish an islandwide network of Electric Vehicle charging stations 

Electric Cars are coming to Jamaica.

This as the JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company) is in the process of setting up partnerships to put the infrastructure in place for Electric Charging stations as noted in the article “Fuel Companies, JPS In Talks Over Electric Charging Stations”, published Wednesday June 19, 2019 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Gleaner.

JPS's national pilot programme for a network of EV charging stations will be launched by March 2020. Each of these charging stations will be within a 30-kilometre radius of each other, easing anxieties about electric vehicles having a poor range per charge.

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Already they are in talks with the Office of Utilities Regulation on pricing the energy distributed at the EV stations.  Interestingly too, the JPS co is doing this in partnership with partnership with two (2) petroleum marketing companies:

1.      Total Jamaica
2.      GB Energy/Texaco Jamaica
3.      Rubis Energy Jamaica Limited

French-owned petroleum company Total Jamaica now has a network of 74 retail stations. They expect to have 2 more stations, one in Old Harbour Road in St Catherine and another in Clarendon, making the total up to 76 potential charging points that can be converted to charge Electric Vehicles.

They've also partnered with AC Hotel by Marriott, a property newly developed by the Stewart family-owned Sandals Resorts International, who also have bigger plans for an islandwide network.

Mauricio Pulido, CEO of GB Energy/Texaco Jamaica, has said that, quote: “….but nothing is set in stone yet” however, “We will disclose more information as soon as we have more solid ground on this”.

This move by JPS to partner with Stewart Family and the Gas stations is strategic as in as I had predicted in my blog article entitled “AC Hotel Kingston Electric Car Charging is ATL Automotive push for Jamaican EV adoption”.

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This is their bid to move towards establish an islandwide network of charging stations to carter mainly to tourists and visitors who will the initial early adopters and then regular people as EV adoption picks up pace.

Good to note here that Total Jamaica is still; mulling the significance of the deal to them, being as they are still in the business of selling gasolene and Diesel following acquisition of Epping Oil Company Limited fuel distribution business earlier in 2019.

Still, they are prepared; they already have products ready for All Electric Vehicles as Network Manager Howard Henry said, “Yes, we have met with them. In fact, Total just launched a lubricant in France that is going to be one of the first lubricants available in Jamaica for electric vehicles. So we are right up the stream in terms of providing for the future …,”

So how will this benefit the Stewart family business?

ATL Automotive and Electric Vehicles - 40% of imports will be electric vehicle imports by 2030

ATL Automotive, owned by the Stewart family, is now in talks with regards to an islandwide electric charging station rollout, possibly involving franchising. They plan to start as follows:

1.      ATL dealerships in Kingston and Montego Bay
2.      ATL and Sandals Resorts International group company properties
3.      Customers’ homes
4.      Public spaces

For them, partnering with the JPS made sense, as it will benefit both their hotel business as well as their Automotive business as pointed out by CEO of the ATL Group and Sandals Resorts, Adam Stewart, quote: “Partnering with JPS was a no-brainer. We wanted to make our new hotel completely future-proof and we expect to see a large number of electric or hybrid cars in the coming months and years. We approached JPS with the idea and were thrilled to discover they shared our passion and vision for the future of our industry”.

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He predicts that by 2030 electric vehicle imports will hit 40%. Hence their partnership with JPS on the installation of the electric vehicle charging stations at AC Hotel by Marriott.

For this reason, they see this as a strategic move to take advantage of the inevitable and makes sales from Electric Vehicles, quote: “As one of country’s leading automotive companies, we’re in exciting dialogue with the car manufacturers we represent on the introduction of electric cars to Jamaica......it’s our responsibility to not only drive awareness around the technology behind electric cars but also prepare ourselves as a business and our customers”.

So how does this translate in terms of the cost of the vehicles top consumers?

Electric Vehicles and Jamaicans - Government can do more to encourage adoption

ATL Automotive Group currently sells hybrid models of luxury brands Porsche and BMW.

These are electric vehicles that have a gasolene engine that chips in every time the vehicles is going at a higher speed, but switches back to electric at lower speeds.

A goofed example of a hybrid is the 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-In Hybrid as described in my blog article entitled “Why the 2019 Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-In Hybrid heralds Electric and Hybrids by 2030”.

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ATL Automotive Group currently operates five divisions:

1.      ATL Automotive exclusively for Honda, Volkswagen and Audi vehicles
2.      ATL Autobahn for the distribution, sales and service of brands BMW and MINI
3.      ATL Motor Sports for Porsche vehicles
4.      ATL Tiger Motors for Kia
5.      ATL Automotive Rentals

According to a rate sheet published by the Customs Agency of Jamaica,

1.      60% import duty on the total cost of the electric vehicles
2.      87.5% import duty on the total cost of the hybrid vehicles

Hybrid vehicles also attract:

1.      21.5% in GCT (General Consumption Tax)
2.      JA$55,000 in Customs Administrative Fee for new vehicles
3.      JA$69,862.50 in Customs Administrative Fee for used vehicles

This is still lower than a gas-powered vehicle exceeding 1000cc, with the only exception being 2000cc engines, an indication that the government is trying to get Jamaicans to buy vehicles with lower fuel consumption. Also, for importers of gas-powered vehicle, they have the following costs to consider:

1.      112.5% Custom duties
2.      10% special consumption tax
3.      21.5% GCT

So clearly, there is a coming cost benefit to owning an electric vehicles; lower purchase price. This will be even lower once the government removes the 60% import duty on Electric Vehicles as explained in my blog article entitled “JPS, USAID and How removing 60% import duty on Electric Vehicle will reduce Jamaica's Oil Bill”. 

Ok, but what about charging of these Electric Vehicles? How long will it take to charge them? Will it be billed to the Gas stations?

JPS and Electric Charging Stations - Fast Charging but Solar for home owners by 2030

JPS plans to speed up the deployment of these Electric Vehicles charging stations via doing the following:

1.      Build, own and operate the charging stations on the properties of its partners
2.      Independent connections to the grid to ensure fast and reliable charging speeds
3.      Gas stations will not be billed for electricity used to charge Electric Vehicles

The Charging stations will be configured as follows:

1.      Fast-charging stations for drivers to charge and go
2.      Medium-speed charging stations for drivers who want to visit business places or shopping areas nearby
3.      Three (3) vehicles can charge at a time during this 15 minute wait
4.      Charging stations will be within a 30-kilometre radius of each other

The utility intends to install charging ports that can fit almost any vehicle, to quote Acting senior vice-president of business development at JPS, Dionne Nugent: “There are specialised vehicles that have their peculiarities, like Tesla, so you probably can’t get public charging for those, but we are not ruling it out. However, for our initial roll-out we want to make them as universal as possible so that there is no real challenge”.

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Using a fast charger, it takes about 15 minutes for an Electric Vehicle to be fully charged. The vehicle owner will pay for the charging of the vehicles, which is expected to a lot cheaper when compared in terms of units of equivalent energy in terms of gasoline and electricity and mileage of these vehicles, as they are more fuel efficient as noted in the article “Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Coming Soon – Islandwide Coverage by Next Year”, published June 12, 2019, JPS.

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So like it or not, Electric Vehicle will be coming to Jamaica by 2030. If this works out, it will definately catch on with the regular consumer, especially as electricity rates are trending down and homeowners can charge their vehicles via using solar charging.