Tameka Samuels-Jones, Unearthed: Bauxite Mining in Jamaica as Ecocide.

Jamaica is internationally renowned for its vibrant tourism industry and potent Blue Mountain coffee. However, less well known is a primary Jamaican export that has become one of the mainstays of the island’s economy – bauxite, the raw material from which aluminum is produced. Bauxite may not be as well-known as Jamaica’s tourism or coffee, but it is more widely consumed globally. Bauxite is a rock which is mined out of the land and further refined into aluminum using caustic soda and lime. Aluminum is then used for siding and windows in houses, to make electrical appliances, pots and pans, kitchen foil, and more. As a highlight of aluminum’s strategic importance – 80 percent of an airplane’s weight is accounted for by the metal.  

In spite of aluminum’s importance, the means by which this important mineral is obtained – mining, is fraught with problems and contradictions. Bauxite mining is an extractive industry which causes significant environmental harm. Mining operations entail sacrifice by residents and communities – especially those whose territories have been converted into mining concessions – as well as sacrificing the environment. Upstream to downstream, the bauxite mining industry evicts residents and communities from their land, pollutes water and air, destroys ecologies and demolishes crop areas. The lifecycle of mining leaves behind degraded territories and deadly pit sites, beginning prior to exploration and lasting long after the operation ends. These harms can never fully be accounted for, its victims are poorly remediated and the corporate perpetrators are usually unscathed. Behind the mosaic imagery of development through bauxite mining promoted by the Jamaican government (GOJ) are real, rural communities under siege by mining companies which have been granted licenses by state institutions complicit in this ecocide.  

Using the Stop Ecocide Foundation’s Independent Expert panel’s human rights approach to ecocide, this paper explores the accountability gaps that may be filled through an international crime of ecocide. By using the environmental injustices caused by bauxite extraction in Jamaica as a case study, the paper explores the severe, long-term harms which meet the conditions of an environmental crime, and which should meet the conditions of an international crime of ecocide perpetrated by multinational corporations.