Noranda Bauxite Mine: Jamaica

Noranda Bauxite Mine: Jamaica

Noranda Bauxite Works With Local Community

True sustainability requires a long term outlook, hence there are many additional aspects to sustainability besides efficient functioning. Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners (NJBP) Bauxite Ltd. has excelled in a particular aspect of sustainability that many mining, agriculture, and manufacturing companies would do well to emulate – supporting and strengthening the communities in and near which they operate.

Noranda Bauxite is the mining end of the Noranda Aluminum Holding Corporation, based in Franklin, Tennessee, USA. Noranda operates the mine in St. Ann, Jamaica as a Jamaican holding company under concession with the Jamaican government (until 2030), owning 49% to the government’s 51%. The mining company excavates bauxite from the ground, dries it, and then ships it from Port Rhoades, Jamaica to be further processed into aluminium grains, sheets, or products.

NJBP is understandably proud of the efficiency with which it carries out these operations. Efficiency, by itself, however, is a goal of every company. It doesn’t necessarily indicate a company working toward sustainability.

Noranda does have sustainability goals, however, and one of them states, “Noranda’s success is built on the energy of its people.” This goal requires the company to carry out the following actions:

• Improve the safety of the work environment
• Increase employee capabilities through training
• Align performance system goals
• Strengthen union relationships

Antoine Liddell, NJBP’s recently appointed Vice president and General Manager, walks around the operations daily, chatting with employees, encouraging them to focus on every step of their job in order to keep the workplace safe, efficient and productive. While doing so, he looks out for cost efficiencies, and additional training or shifting assignment needs to prevent bottlenecks. In 2014 the operations produced 0.2 million metric tonnes of bauxite more than was done in 2013.

NJBP now employs 500 permanent employees and creates 300 indirect contractor jobs from communities around the mines. In 2014 it expanded operations and increased shipments of ore to 4.8 million metric tonnes.

This performance serves to motivate employees and affords opportunities to extend benefits to and enhance community life, including employees’ families and friends. An employee’s work life can be great, but when families and friends are not realising the economic benefits it sets up a schism within the worker that makes it hard for him/her m to concentrate on the job, thus increasing safety risks. It therefore behoves a company to pay attention to its effects on the local community, and NJBP does.

In addition to hiring locally, the mine purchases as many of its supplies as it can locally. The company estimates it pumps some US$80 million into the Jamaican economy annually. In a recent telephone conversation Liddell said of Noranda Bauxite, “We are totally committed to using local businesses and only go outside of the island if we cannot find appropriate suppliers at a competitive price.” He also stated that, “Partnership with the community is extremely important and is a core part of our value system.”

The mining company’s commitment shows. According to an article in the Jamaica Gleaner (08/30/14), Noranda’s contributions to the development of St. Ann over the years have included “a $15-million (Jamaican $) annual investment in education, a greenhouse project that has led to the construction of some 60 greenhouses in its mining area since 2010, annual work experience programme for tertiary students, a community-outreach programme which includes health assistance, sports development, and contributions of water to schools, health facilities and communities in need”

Joint employee/community councils at the mines and plant act as a forum for communication, problem resolution, and community development. In December of last year the Council and Noranda company leaders met to give recognition to nominated local citizens for outstanding community service. The Council organised the event and included an award to recent Company President (now Executive Chairman) Pansy Johnson in appreciation for the company’s and her own personal contributions to the community (Jamaica Observer, 12/08/14).

All of these activities together result in making Noranda Bauxite an efficient workplace, and a desirable place to work for its employees. When a company reaches out to local communities, it encourages families to support their members working for the company. It also encourages locals to accept and support the company as a foreign entity operating locally. And when the company educates local staff to take on management and upper level executive positions, the community begins to feel a sense of ownership and pride. This leads to long term stability within that community.

From the company’s perspective, its employees become more dedicated, creative, and willing to work harder with fewer accidents. That means the company gets more and better quality work done, employee ingenuity is higher, and safety infractions and costs are lower, due to increased diligence. This increases a company’s productivity, decreases its worker downtime (which positively affects finances), and provides good, strong evidence that the company’s worker and community sustainability initiatives are worthwhile.

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