Jamaica is a global producer of bauxite, a critical material used to produce aluminum. The Caribbean island, most well-known globally for its vibrant tourism industry, has exploited this “red dirt” for decades. While the industry remains profitable, there has been significant push-back recently, including a recent landmark Supreme Court ruling against a new mining project.
The importance of “Red Dirt”
In 2022, Jamaica’s bauxite production totaled 7,048kt, up 22% from 2021, and the Caribbean island accounts for 2% of global bauxite production. The major global producers are Australia, China, Guinea, Brazil, and India; Jamaica hovers around the 10th place according to Statista, though other outlets put Jamaica in the seventh spot.
The top mining projects on the island are the St. Ann Bauxite Mine (owned by the government of Jamaica and New Day Aluminium), Windalco Mine (owned by United Company Rusal), and Alpart Project (owned by Jiuquan Iron and Steel: JISCO). In late 2021, United Company RUSAL (UC RUSAL) began making payments towards the US$35 million Bauxite Production Levy owed for the April 2018 to September 2021 period. In early June 2023, Mining Minister Floyd Green met with JISCO Alpart “to discuss the company’s plans for the reopening and resumption of plant operations,” which has been stalled since 2019.