KINGSTON: A Jamaican researcher believes that the country could earn up to US$7-billion annually by increasing the production of limestone and its value added products.
Dr. Conrad Douglas, Executive Chairman of Conrad Douglas and Associates, said the industry offers vast opportunities for investors in agriculture, food processing and manufacturing.
“There are great opportunities…what we found were really large. We are talking about total cumulative value for the markets of some US$7-billion,” he said, citing the production of paper, polishes, paints, rubber, glass, cosmetics, plastics and adhesives.
Dr. Douglas said Jamaica was blessed with rich limestone resources and is considered the limestone capital of the world.
The nation’s limestone resources are estimated at 150 billion tons, of which 50 billion tons is recoverable. The main export markets for limestone are Canada, United States, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and South America.
“Jamaican limestone is occurring naturally, we have been producing it, and we have been exporting it, and it has found acceptance in the international markets,” said Douglas. “We have pharmaceutical limestone, we have chemical limestone, and we also have metallurgical limestone (use primarily in the bauxite industry). Limestone has the most diverse end-use structure of all material known by mankind. That, in itself, presents a wide range of opportunities.”
The researcher said there was need to focus on the production of high value-added products to drive the industry for the future.
“We believe that there is opportunity, as found from the study, to ramp-up production to a greater level,” he said, noting that Jamaica imports limestone products that can be manufactured locally and 10 plants across the island can be “ramped-up easily” for the production of these items.
However, he said that for the development of the sector, a number of legislation relating to planning and development orders need to be amended and that “great reliance” would have to be placed on scientists in the development of the industry.
“It means that we have to apply best sciences, and the best technology, and the best environment management practices to embark on a path of sustainable development and the use of creative conservation technologies, which now exist for the rehabilitation of those areas, which we might extract this resource from.”
Douglas’s team will conduct two other studies on the limestone industry, one looking at the required investment for the sector, while the other will explore technical and environmental plans for the companies involved in the industry.
Principal Director in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Dr. Oral Rainford, said Jamaica has the possibility of becoming the centre of the limestone business in this part of the world.
“We are speaking of the aggregate, we are speaking of the value-added, and all the business associated with limestone,” he said. “We are going to see that a large number of products can be generated from these resources, a large number of jobs can be created, and the wealth that ought to flow from these resources will begin to appear.”