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GOB says No to Vulcan Materials

Aquatic Ecologist Dr. Ed Boles is today raising the alarm about Vulcan Materials Company, a multi-billion dollar aggregate mining company in the United States, and its reported purchase of White Ridge Farm in the Stann Creek District of Belize. Dr Boles says that the company’s intent is to blast, pulverize, and ship Sugar Hills, a limestone formation, to the southeastern US for use as road fill. Blasting shall disrupt local hydrologic systems in the Southern Lagoon area, threatening the largest concentration of Caribbean manatees, as well as Central American River Turtles, American Crocodiles, and other fauna. However on its website the company says that The White Ridge Project is an environmentally and socially sustainable limestone quarry, on the White Ridge Farm property near Gales Point, Belize. But Dr. Boles says that the crushed material shall be carried by a conveyer bridge that passes over an important Hawks Bill Sea Turtle nesting beach to waiting cargo ships in the dredged out centre of the Inner Channel behind the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Dr Boles further explained: 

Dr. Ed Boles, Aquatic Ecologist: “That’s a very sensitive area that they want to set up operations and they’re also going to be, besides blasting and pulverising materials, they’re also going to be sending it across a conveyor bridge out to the dredged out area in the middle of the inner channel and filling freighters to go to the southeastern United States with their loads and that’s going to also cause a lot of issues because the bridge itself would go over where the largest Hawksbill nesting beach is in Belize and of course the dredging that would be involved in the inner channel will be detrimental to the reef area. The team is coming down in a few days and I think they’re going to begin the process of putting together the environmental impact assessment and from there they want to move forward to try to open up operations here. However, this government has already stated that there will be no strip mining. This is what it really is, strip mining – scraping away the forest cover and the topsoil, getting down to the limestone. But there will be no strip mining in this area, according to the Government. They’re still going ahead with purchase. That tells me that they must have an intention with trying to wait it out and try to get their mine open maybe when, in another situation, perhaps when government changes.”

Dr Boles says that Vulcan Materials is persistent and maybe even desperate to open their first mine in Belize. The Mexican Government temporarily shut down the Vulcan Calica Mine south of Playa del Carmen in February and again on May 5, 2022, this time closing it due to the extensive damage the mining operation was causing to the local environment and the water table. This mine was producing 12 million tons of crushed limestone for the US market. Dr Boles says that if this mega-corporation gets a foothold in Belize, the country’s renowned ecological resources and cultural/social identity may change forever. 

Dr. Ed Boles, Aquatic Ecologist: “This particular area, Southern Lagoon, is a pretty rich system. It’s got lots of American Crocodiles. It’s got one of the largest numbers of manatee in the area, probably within the western Caribbean and of course it’s because of those hot water upwellings that the manatees have been attracted to this area and the mining of course are going to disturb those kinds of water flow but also this continual blasting to break apart the rock is certainly going to have an effect on the manatee and other animals in that area including the Central American River Turtle that’s already a critically endangered animal and it’s probably going to be very disturbing to a lot of the aquatic organisms there especially since the sound energy could travel so rapidly through water. Water’s a pretty good medium for these waves, the blast waves from the mining operation.” 

Today we asked the Minister of Natural Resources, Cordel Hyde about it. Minister Hyde who is the minister responsible for mining, told Love News that Vulcan Materials will NOT be given a license to mine in Belize. 

Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum & Mining: “The residents from Gales Point Manatee have made it absolutely clear to the Government that they don’t want that kind of activity in their neck of the woods. Absolutely clear for the longest time at least I can remember since we’ve been in Government and I imagine it’s even from before they’ve been clamouring and making that statement and if we’re a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people, then that’s a no go for us really. They didn’t get any commitment from us before buying the land. That’s a private sector arm’s length deal I would imagine. They didn’t buy the land on the condition that they would get a licence to mine. We didn’t give any such commitment, at least I didn’t.”

Reporter: So you’re saying that at this point they’re in the country to try and set up an operation but the Government simply is not going to approve it? 

Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum & Mining: “No we’re not having that sir.