My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

How reducing 20% CET on Li-Ion Batteries heralds a Jamaican Hydrogen-Electron Based Economy in 2030

“The expectation is that both regular customers and members of the private sector will be able to bring in these batteries at a reduced cost.......Without commenting on any specific project, what it now means is that a number of projects will now be more attainable in terms of cost”.

State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, commenting on the request for the removal of the CET on Li-Ion Batteries

Alternative Power is finally getting a real boost in Jamaica.

This as the Government of Jamaica is removing the CET (Common External Tariff) on Li-Ion Batteries for JPS Co (Jamaica Power Service Company's) as reported in the article “JPS To Get Tax Break On Lithium Batteries”, published Sunday June 9, 2019 by Neville Graham, The Jamaica Gleaner. 
Google Logo

This is to be used as an energy storage solution to support the US$25 million plant that will installed at JPS Co Hunt’s Bay power station in Kingston. Slated to produce some 24.5 megawatt, the plant, which is being installed with Li-Ion Batteries, has been in construction since February 2018.

It will use Li-Ion Batteries to store excess power from Power generation during the day to supply spikes in peak power during the night.

JPS power stations are being upgraded as reported in the article “JPS Full Switchover From HFO To LNG To Go Beyond 2020”, Published Wednesday February 6, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner.

These plans are being upgraded to run on either:

1.      LNG (Liquid Natural Gas)
2.      ADO (automotive diesel oil)

The switchover affects four (4) power plants

1.      120 MW Bogue Power Station in Montego Bay (completed and commissioned in 2016)
2.      190 MW Old Harbour Power Station in St Catherine (under redevelopment)
3.      25 MW Hunts Bay Power Station
4.      40 MW Rockfort Power Station

JPS Co began construction in February 2018 of the 25 MW Hunts Bay as reported in the article “JPS breaks ground for US$21.6m hybrid energy storage facility”, published Tuesday, February 27, 2018, The Jamaica Observer, which will have a combination of two (2) storage options:

1.      Low-speed flywheel
2.      Li-Ion batteries

This removal of the CET will save JA$1 billion in CET, as JPS Co is set to import some US$40 million (JA$5.4 billion) worth of Li-Ion Batteries. They already have 50% of that amount in Jamaica worth some US$26 million (JA$3.5 billion).

So how did the removal of the CET occur?

JPS Co and the CET – GOJ got CARICOM approval for 2-years tax free Li-Ion Batteries

This removal of the CET is possible thanks to COTED (Caribbean Community Council for Trade and Economic Development) in the week of Sunday June 2nd 2019 granting permission to the Government of Jamaica to suspend the CET for two (2) years.

Google Logo

So on March 7, 2019, the committee for the review of energy and technology tax incentives decided to apply to COTED to have Li-Ion batteries imported into the region CET-free. COTED, which has headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana, agreed in May 2019 to allow this to happen.

Thanks to this agreement, all Jamaicans will be allowed to import Li-Ion Batteries into Jamaica CET-free, not just JPS Co alone, as noted by State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, quote: “The expectation is that both regular customers and members of the private sector will be able to bring in these batteries at a reduced cost”.

Also, expect more Renewable energy projects to get stated in Jamaica, said Floyd Green: “Without commenting on any specific project, what it now means is that a number of projects will now be more attainable in terms of cost”.

So why does JPS Co need Li-Ion batteries?

JPS Co and Power Supply - Stable Power supply by smoothing out

JPS Vice-president for energy delivery, Blaine Jarrett, first made mention of the 24.5 megawatt plant at Hunts Bay in April 2019. She stated its purpose was to:

1.      Maintain consistent power supply
2.      Stop power fluctuations

Strangely, this was not being caused by faulty JPS Co Equiptment.

Rather, it was being caused by the increased use of alternative energy power systems e.g. wind and solar as I had explained in my blog article entitled “How JPS Co Hybrid Storage Plant Prevents Islandwide Outages as Solar Power usage increases”.
Google Logo

The storage facility will allow the company to maintain consistent power supply and curtail the power fluctuations as explained in the article “JPS Invests US$25m In Storage Facility To Address Power Fluctuations”, published Sunday April 14, 2019 by Steven Jackson, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This is especially true for customers in the Rural areas such as Clarendon, Manchester and Montego Bay, who will experience fewer power cuts following the installation of the storage facility.

The need for such a power storage facility arose out of board discussions at JPS in mid-2017 after the islandwide power outage that occurred on Saturday August 27th 2016. The JPS Co was referred to the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation), who recommended several recommendations (The Jamaica Observer, 2016, November 17), many of which are flawed and were based on blaming managers and supervisors.

In my MICO WARS blog article entitled “OUR tells JPS Co to do Load Impedance Matching to prevent future Islandwide outage”, I recommended the use of Li-Ion Batteries or Sulphuric Acid Battery storage of Excess power to meet the demands of increasing load on the Electricity Grid or a drop in load due to our increasing use of Alternative Energy solutions or sudden emergency e.g. Hurricane or Earthquake.

Both are a cause for concerns, as they create fluctuations in the demand for Electricity or Load, making it hard for the JPS Co to produce enough power to supply demand.

So how does this help JPS Co Hunt’s Bay power station help with stabilizing our power supply?

JPS Co and Li-Ion Battery Storage - Power Fluctuations due to Alternative Energy Installations

Peak energy usage in Jamaica occurs between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. According to JPS Co., this matches the time that:

1.      Solar plants reduce power generation due to mid-day peak
2.      Wind farms optimally generate power at nights but after peak periods

The result is an oversupply of electricity from Alternative sources, which results in a drop in demand for Electric Power. This excess energy changes the Power demand curve for JPS Co Electricity, resulting in what is called in academic circles as well as among Power Engineers as the Duck Curve .

That excess energy from Alternative Energy sources has to be stored, otherwise it will go to waste. The Stored Energy at the new Hunts Bay Power Plant facility would be brought into play at peak periods when this occurs, utilizing the power already stored in Li-Ion Batteries and Flywheels to smooth out this spike in demand.

But part of the problem as I have argued is the increasing usage of Solar and Wind turbines by customers as well, which is affecting JPS Co supply of power to their customers as argued in my blog article entitled “How JPS Co Hybrid Storage Plant Prevents Islandwide Outages as Solar Power usage increases”.

Google Logo

If the Load is too small at peak period, as would be caused by excess power from customer solar Panels and Wind Turbines, JPS Co will produce too much power on the Electricity Grid. This decrease in load occurs at night when customers switch to their Battery storage systems for their Alternative Energy solutions, be it Solar or wind power and often happens during what should be peak power usage.

It can also occurs during a natural disaster when everyone disconnects their breakers, causing a sudden drop in Load and hence fewer houses needing electricity. This excess power generated by their generators has to be stored, as JPS Co cannot turn off their generators as they are not so easy to just shut down; they are only turned off for maintenance every 1000 run Hours and this procedure takes 24 hours to achieve and is an expensive process.

So that excess energy has to be stored in some form, be it in Batteries or in some form of Kinetic storage e.g. Flywheel or an Elevated Dam, so that it does not go to waste and keeps the plant functioning efficiently.

Google Logo

If the Load is too large at peak period, as would be cause if everyone SIMULTANEOUSLY were to suddenly switch on all their heavy current appliances at the same time, JPS Co will produce too much power on the Electricity Grid. This sudden increase in load can occur during a major event e.g. sports event, heat wave in a country or during the holiday, such as at Christmas time and may occur during what should be peak power usage.

JPS Co would end up producing too little power to meet rising customer demand on the Electricity Grid. During this period of time, JPS Co has to find excess power has to be stored, as they cannot turn on their generators as they are not so easy to just turn on if they are off for maintenance. So that excess energy has to be stored in some form, be it in Batteries or in some form of Kinetic storage e.g. Flywheel or an Elevated Dam.

Li-Ion batteries are the perfect short-term solution, with long-term solutions being a Dam on a high elevation as well as large Flywheel technology to store excess power. This facility can be used to store excess power if the Load is too small at peak period or provide electricity on demand if the Load is too large at peak period for the reasons detailed above.

Combined with increased SmartMeter deployment, JPS Co will be better able to monitor the load from Commercial and Household consumers and thus anticipate more precisely fluctuations in Electricity demand.

Hence the need to reduce their cost to allow JPS Co and other players in the Power Generation sector to have access to them for their Power Backup solutions. So will this benefit regular consumers and householders?

Li-Ion Batteries and Alternative Energy - 50% Renewables by 2030

Li-Ion batteries are the go-to storage solution for everything from smartphones, Electric Vehicles to Tesla's PowerWall as explained in the video below.

“Batteries that come in as part of a renewable system come in duty-free and GCT free and certain types of batteries, the tariff code also allows them to come in duty free. Lithium ion batteries, unfortunately, is not on that list,” stated a source close to the energy review committee in an interview with The Financial Gleaner.

Google Logo

The addition of renewable to the grid is part of a JPS Co's energy diversification programme. JPS Co's energy mix is currently as follows:

1.      11% from renewables
2.      50% from LNG
3.      39% from heavy fuel oil

The plan is to use more LNG now that the LNG Terminal will soon be up and running as reported in the article “PM Says Newly Commissioned LNG Terminal Will Reduce Energy Costs”, published JULY 20, 2019 by ALECIA SMITH, The Jamaica Information Service.

JPS Co is pushing for 80% power coming from LNG in the next five (5) years. Energy storage is part of JPS CO's solution with the Jamaican Government action making this easier for at least 2 years, to quote State Minister Floyd Green: “As far as our ministry is concerned, we have to look at how we can assist in meeting those energy goals. We found that one of the barriers is the sheer cost of the importation of lithium ion batteries. While the cost is coming down, the attendant duty adds to the cost”.

At least the Government of Jamaica is pushing for 50% renewables by 2030, with Energy storage being part of the plans as State Minister Floyd Green points out: “What we have done is to take that policy, broke it down and look at those areas that touch and concern us, especially the trade and duty-related issues, and we’ve done what needs to be done to remove those barriers that we can impact.”

This first with my recommendation that they seek to have 50% to 100% coming from Renewables as I had opined in my blog article entitled “How New Fortress Energy LNG fuel for JUTC Buses is a step towards a Hydrogen-Electric Economy in 2030”. 

So what are the long term implications?

JPS Co and the Future - Energy Sector Liberalization 

The impact of this will be deep.

Not only will it stabilize JPS Co power and potentially lower the cost of delivering Energy, but it could also help with lower the homeowner cost of installing and deploying Alternative Energy solutions.

It would also encourage Jamaicans to switch to Electric Vehicles come 2025, once enough Electric Charging Stations are installed in 2020 as predicted in my blog article entitled “ATL Automotive and JPS islandwide Network of Electric Charging Stations by 2020”.

It would also make Hybrid-Electric JUTC Buses and eventually other forms of Mass Transport a reality, lowering the cost of Transportation as predicted in my blog article entitled “Why JUTC going Hybrid indicates removal of 60% import duty on Electric Vehicles”. 

Google Logo

Ultimate, this excess of Energy from Alternative and LNG may even result is Jamaica switching to a Hydrogen-Electric Economy as long opined in my blog article entitled “How New Fortress Energy LNG fuel for JUTC Buses is a step towards a Hydrogen-Electric Economy in 2030”. 

This as cheap energy would not only make operating business in Jamaica easier, but it would allow us to branch into using that excess energy, especially Wind Energy to produce Hydrogen and extract Uranium from seawater for export as predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How PCJ Offshore Windfarm may be used to export Hydrogen and Uranium”. 

We could eventually switch over to a Hydrogen-Electron Based Economy where our Energy would be generated by generators fueled by Hydrogen obtained from the Electrolysis of water, Cars running on Hydrogen Fuel cells and Cooking Gas filled with Hydrogen Gas as opined in my blog article entitled “UTECH and Hydrogen as Cooking Gas – How Hydride Salts make Hydrogen Cooking Gas and Fuel Cells possible      

Finally, it will hopefully push the Government of Jamaica into following the example of Costa Rica and dismantling the JPS Co Monopoly.

This would set the stage for introducing Alternative Energy-powered Mini Grids and enabling Competition in the Energy sector as opined in my blog article entitled “How JPS Co App for Digital smartmeter means paying Electricity Bill via Mobile Money”. 

Energy Sector Liberalization is possible come 2030 when Li-Ion Batteries, LNG and Renewables are a permanent part of Jamaica's Energy Mix in 2025!!!


1.      The Jamaica Observer. (2016, November 17). OUR tells JPS to fix system to prevent future outages. Retrieved from

Sunday, July 21, 2019

How the XENON1T experiment for Dark Matter calculated the half-life of Xenon-124

“A key point here is that we have so many atoms, so if any decays, we’ll see it. We have a (literal) ton of material.”

Christopher Tunnell, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of computer science at Rice University on the calculation of the half-life of Xenon-124

Finally, we now know the half-life of Xenon-124, an isotope of Xenon. Located in Group VIII of the Periodic Table, its half-life has eluded scientists...until now.

Google Logo

An international team of physicists at Rice University reported the half-life of Xenon-124 is close to 18 sextillion years as reported in the article “Half-Life of Xenon-124 is about 18 sextillion years”, 24 April 2019 by By Mike Williams of Rice University, Universal Sci.

Their calculation, as laid out in the journal Nature, was the result of observing the decay process in a very large amount of Xenon in an experiment called the XENON1T experiment.

Support came from the following bodies:

§  The National Science Foundation
§  The Swiss National Science Foundation
§  The German Ministry for Education and Research
§  Max Planck Gesellschaft
§  Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
§  The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
§  NLeSC
§  The Weizmann Institute of Science
§  Pazy-Vatat
§  Initial Training Network Invisibles
§  Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia
§  Region des Pays de la Loire
§  The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation
§  The Kavli Foundation
§  The Abeloe Graduate Fellowship
§  Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare

So what exactly is half-life of a radioactive sample anyway?

Radioactivity and half-life - Xenon-124 may be older than the Known Universe

The half-life of radioactive sample is the time it takes for half of that sample to decay to more stable forms. Most Xenon isotopes have half-lives of less than 12 days. Researchers, however, have suspected for some time that a few long-lived and stable isotopes exist.

Google Logo

Xenon-124 is one of those, with a half-life estimated to be around 160 trillion years as it decays via beta particle emission into Tellurium-124. For comparison, cosmologists have presumed that the Universe is a mere 13 to 14 billion years old. This means that Xenon-124 could have been present even before the Universe even existed.

Still, the chance of seeing such a decay incident for Xenon-124 is vanishingly small—unless one gathers enough Xenon atoms and puts them in the “most radio-pure place on Earth”, as stated by Christopher Tunnell, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of computer science at Rice University.

So what exactly is the XENON1T experiment? And how did the scientists calculate its half-life?

Half-life of Xenon-124 - How the XENON1T experiment Works

The XENON1T experiment is designed to find the first direct evidence of Dark Matter. Dark Matter is the mysterious substance thought to account for most of the matter in the universe.

The XENON1T experiment is set deep inside a mountain in Italy. It is an EM (Electro-magnetic) and radioactivity-decay shielded chamber that contains a ton of highly purified liquid Xenon.

Google Logo

The XENON1T experiment can detect the following signs that indicate when Xenon-124 decays:

§  Photons being emitted by the liquid Xenon
§  Electrons emitted by beta particle decay at the top layer of charged Xenon gas

To quote Christopher Tunnell, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of computer science at Rice University: “We can see single neutrons, single photons, single electrons,” he says. “Everything that enters into this detector will deposit energy in some way, and it’s measurable.”

Please note that the half-life is, on average, the time for 50% of the radioactive Xenon to be converted to other stable forms. So the scientists had detectors monitor basically every single atom of Xenon for signs of decay.

Google Logo

Most particle detector work on this principle of detecting the remnant of the decay of a radioactive nuclei instead of direct observation. The results of the decay of a radioactive nuclei are not stable and may exist for thousands or millionths of a fraction of a second.

So what exactly did the XENON1T experiment detect?

Xenon-124 decay - Electron capture and neutrinos released

There are three (3) ways a radioactive isotope can decay:

§  Alpha Decay - Helium nuclei with a 2+ positive charge splits from the nucleus , which is the alpha particle
§  Beta Decay - Neutron decays into a proton and an electron, with the high energy electron being the beta particle
§  Gamma Ray Emission - Electron falls from a higher energy level to a lower energy levels, emitting Gamma rays
§  Electron Capture - An electron goes into the nucleus and turns a proton into a neutron. This is basically the reverse of Beta Decay

Electron Capture was the method used to determine the half-life of Xenon-124. It also generates a sub-atomic particle known as a neutrino.  Yes I know, dear reader, that you were not taught this in High School Chemistry or Physics, but it does happen. 

Google Logo

In the case of the electron capture, high level electrons fall to the empty shells below, due to the reduced negative charge repulsion. This process of electron falling from higher levels to fill lower level shells until they fall into the nucleus generates photons and an emission spectra equivalent to the difference in energy levels or orbitals.

“Normally, you have one electron come in and one neutrino come out,” Tunnell says. “That neutrino has a fixed energy, which is how the nucleus expels its mass. This is a process we see often in nuclear particle physics, and it’s quite well understood”.

However, scientists have seen two electrons come into the nucleus at the same time and give off two neutrinos. This event, called two-neutrino double electron capture, if possible, is detected as a spike in the emission spectra that can only be interpreted as multiple two-neutrino double electron capture.
So unique is the event and given that background radiation is excluded, it has only one explanation as Tunnell explains, “It can’t be explained with any other background sources that we know of”.

From this release of neutrinos in a  two-neutrino double electron capture, which was spotted some 126 times as reported in the article “This is the slowest radioactive decay ever spotted”, published April 24 2019 by Maria Temming, Science News, scientists can deduce a count rate of Xenon-124.

Google Logo

Then using algorithms to do a reverse calculation based on basic high-school Physics principles on half-life, they can extrapolate the length of each half-like i.e. how long before the release of neutrinos and radiation drops to half of its value and thus its half-life.

From XENON1T to XENONnT - How to build a bigger, better Dark Matter Detector
As the search for Dark Matter continues unsuccessfully, scientists are using these expensive detectors to do other important scientific work.

“It gets tricky, because while we have the science we’re trying to do, we also have to think about what else we can do with the experiment,” Tunnell says. “We have a lot of students looking for thesis projects, so we make a list of 10 or 20 other measurements—but they’re a shot in the dark, and we almost always come up with nothing, as is typical of curiosity-driven science.

Google Logo

XENON1T experiment can theoretically detect WIMPs which stands for "weakly interactive massive particles". The hypothetical particles believed to constitute Dark Matter and may also be the result of the decay of Dark Matter; detecting it would prove that Dark Matter exists. It can also be used to detect neutrino-less double electron capture, in which no neutrinos are released.

So although the researchers who coauthored the current paper have not detected detect Dark Matter, work is ongoing to build a larger instrument, XENONnT, to further the search. 

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.

Google Logo

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.

Google Logo

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”.

Google Logo

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.

Google Logo

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 (5) 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.

Google Logo

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!!