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It’s a quiet fishing community off the Coastal Road, fifty-three miles by land from Belize City and twenty-seven miles from Dangriga. But residents of Gales Point Manatee say they have reason to become vociferous in order to protect the sanctity of their community the way it has been known to be for generations. This weekend, they sent a loud message to Vulcan Materials Company, a mining and aggregates enterprise with interests to set up business near the village. Our news team travelled to Gales Point for the event and returned with the following report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The lively chorus of villagers in their traditional Sambai music was a loud message to Vulcan Materials Company, currently pursuing approval from the Department of the Environment to conduct mining in an area known as White Ridge Farms. The area off the Coastal Road is geographically the backyard to Gales Point, and is where Vulcan is seeking to purchase land to run an aggregates business. But on Saturday, when the company set up tents to conduct public consultations with the villagers to discuss the project, it received an overwhelming rejection. In fact, what should have been consultations turned out to be more of a protest against the proposed project.

Joan Slusher, Resident, Gales Point Village

"We nuh want Vulcan eena fi we village. We nuh need Vulcan eena fi we village."

Nicole Andrewin, Resident, Gales Point Village

"Their little jobs are not worth our environment and our blessed jewel. We have the largest concentration of manatees and sea turtles as well as the eco-system."

One of the project's opponents lives in La Democracia. Carol Ramos told us she felt the need to travel the eighteen miles to Gales Point to let her voice be heard.

Marion Ali

"What have they told you?"

Carol Ramos, La Democracia Village

"Dehn wa have jobs, all kinda things. I nuh believe dehn. Soh, I nuh support dehn. No means no."

Vulcan has pledged to adhere to whatever the requirements will be, pending the outcome of an Environmental Impact Assessment by the Department of the Environment. But their spokesperson, Jimmy Flemming says the consultations didn't turn out how they were hoping.

Marion Ali

"They just don't want your project here. They don't welcome Vulcan to their community or the environs. How do you take that message?"

Jimmy Flemming, V.P., Government/External Affairs, Community Relations, Vulcan

"Well I think that's a message that some have given but there are others who are at the same time asking us what kind of job are we going to bring to the community, what kind of benefits do we bring? What is the economic benefit to this area and to Belize? So we got a lot of those questions as well."

Flemming indicated that Vulcan intends to purchase land in an area called White Ridge Farms and to apply for approval for the project.

Jimmy Flemming

"The environmental impact assessment itself will take well over a year, maybe two years to go through. We have to answer those questions or we don't get our permit, pure and simple. We're committed to the purchase of White Ridge Farms. The purchase will take place before the permits are granted."

There were a few who support the project, such as villager, Lloyd Andrewin, and Belize People's Front Leader, Nancy Marin, who traveled to Gales Point for the occasion.

Nancy Marin, Leader, Belize People's Front

"I think they've put a good foot forward in consulting with the people, and giving the people the opportunity to ask their questions. Of course, their reputation precedes them, especially what happened in Mexico, but Belize needs development and we need to find a medium balance because chances are it's going to happen. If they can find a medium balance, I think it could be something good but we really have to hold them to task as it relates to the environment."

Lloyd Andrewin, Resident, Gales Point Village

"We were drilling and getting samples from the hill and I was supervising that project there. At least thirty people were working and everyone was satisfied but suddenly some people change."

Village Chairman, Jason Altschaft, suggested that people changed their position about the project because there is now a lack of trust in the company, and the villagers expressed their condemnation of negative environmental impacts.

Jason Altschaft, Chairman, Gales Point Manatee

"They came to us the first time through Village Council. We had six or seven different cooks rotating to cook their food. They were only going to work eight hundred acres. That was what they sold us. Then they came back; we didn't know they came back. They came back, they went across the mountain, they didn't tell council, and they didn't set up cooks. They did all this under the cover."

Emmeth Young, Resident, Gales Point Village

"They're going to break down our beautiful hills and mountains that supply our watershed and also our animals, our beautiful animals live in those mountains there, so when they blow up there where are the animals going to go?"

Sharlene Andrewin, Resident, Gales Point Village

"A mining in Gales Point area is very dangerous for us. I'm telling you. Tearing down our hills - when hurricane and stuff, these are the things that help us.� A tourism site, a wildlife sanctuary, a nature reserve, everything - we don't want to lose that. We do not want to lose that."

Joan Slusher

"My farm is on the Coast Road close to where Vulcan wants to do their bombing."

In addition to these opponents are these - letters written by over two dozen concerned citizens who either live in Belize or have relatives here, and from environmental organizations in Belize. All of them either outwardly condemning the mining or expressing deep concerns over the permanent environmental impact the project will have on the village and its surroundings. And just for good measure, there were also these placards that residents placed across from the consultation site. Marion Ali for News Five.

Channel 5

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P.M. on Vulcan: We Need to Hear Them Out.

P.M. Brice�o was also asked for his thoughts on Vulcan Material and its proposal for mining near Gales Point Manatee. The Prime Minister was more open to hearing from the company than other government representatives who have shared on the subject. P.M. Brice�o noted that while it is a matter that must not be taken lightly or kindly to, there is a process for Vulcan Material to share with the relevant authorities.

Prime Minister John Brice�o

"It is a basic right. Anybody can come and buy land, once the owner is prepared to sell. Now, whether they will get the necessary approval that is another matter. I think the Minister of Natural Resources has been very clear on his position. And, if the issue should ever come up, the Area Representative, the Minister of Human Development, Honorable Balderamos has also said it is something that her voters do not support. Certainly, myself as a former minister of environment I don't think it is something that will take lightly or kindly to say that those beautiful hills should be destroyed. But we cannot stop any company that wants to come and want to invest in Belize. We need to hear them out. You can't just say well don't come. We want them to come but they have to follow our laws, especially our environmental laws because we are known as a eco-friendly country. As such, we are going to do everything possible to protect that reputation that we have."

Channel 5


The Executive View On Vulcan

We've been reporting extensively on the developments of Vulcan Materials Company and its interest in White Ridge, an area near Gales Point Manatee. You've heard the residents declare that they are vehemently against the company coming in and effectively destroying their natural environment - which has remained pristine over the years.

You've also heard the Minister of Natural Resources say that there's no way Vulcan will be getting permission from the government to mine in that area, even if they go ahead with the purchasing of the land.

Well, today we asked the prime minister for his take on it. While he wasn't as definitive as Minister Hyde, he did say he doesn't think the Cabinet will approve the permits.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"Well, it's a it's a basic right. Anybody can can come and buy land once the owner is prepared to to sell, now whether they would get the necessary approvals, that's another matter. I think the the Minister of Natural Resources have been very clear on his position and I'm certain that should that ever come up- the area representative, Minister of Human Development, Honorable Balderamos, have also said that it's not something that the voters do not support. And certainly myself, as a former Minister of Environment, I would not, I don't think it's something I would take lightly or kindly to see that this beautiful mountain just just be destroyed. But we cannot stop any company that wants to come and invest in Belize. We need to hear them out. You know, we can't just say well don't come, we want them to come. But they have to follow our laws and especially our environmental laws because we are known as an eco friendly country. And as such, we're going to do everything possible to protect that reputation that we have worldwide."

Courtney Menzies:
"So while in the minister's mind, he might say outright, no, you're saying let's talk to them, let's hear them out first before we just go to no."

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"No, I don't know where you get that. I never said I never said no such thing. I never said no such thing. What I said is that it has not come to the Cabinet. At the end of the day, it will have to come to cabinet. They would have to make certain applications. He has said that he would not support it. I am saying that I will support the protection of the environment. The area representative had said that she would not support it, but I can't give a definitive answer, because it has not come to committee. I believe that the Cabinet will not support it, but until that time comes, then we could get a definitive answer."

Later on in the interview, the Prime Minister said, quote, "I do not support but if someone wants to come in and explore an investment opportunity in the country, they have that right."

Channel 7


[Linked Image]

PETITION: Strip Mine NO! Save Village & Belize Natural Resources

Gales Point Manatee Village Council started this petition to Belize House of Representatives and 13 others

Right now. there is an imminent threat facing our nation that too few people are fully aware of or informed about. It is an issue of grave national concern for the devastation it will cause in one of the most ecologically important places in our country and in the world.

The land in question stretches from the Caribbean Shore to canopied jungle. It is located between two existing reserve areas: Gales Point Wildlife Sanctuary and the Manatee Forrest Reserve. The property is currently known as White Ridge Farms. This area is home to over 100 species of birds, all of Belize's National Symbols including Baird's Tapir, Keel Billed Toucan, Mahogany, Black Orchid as well as every species of wild cat endemic to Belize. The shoreline in question is part of the largest Sea Turtle nesting grounds in the region.

A mining company known as Vulcan Materials operating in Belize as Carocol Holdings has a contingency contract to purchase +- 14,000 acres from White Ridge Farms. The purchase is contingent on the buyer finding the materials they wish to mine (which they have) and on getting approval for their Environmental Impact Assessment (which they are in process of procuring).

Please, this EIA MUST BE DENIED to them. The Environmental Impact of strip mining here would be devastation in an area where some of the world's most critically endangered species are surviving. As you certainly know, critically endangered means close to extinction and extinction means gone forever. We cannot in good conscience allow this for our jewel. The operations would include a conveyor belt cutting across Sea Turtle nesting beach and dredging to allow for loading their cargo ships.

Also, the sale would be between two American companies with very little economic gain for Belize. Local villagers are not even considered qualified for the jobs they would create which will likely go to foreign company trained employees.

The most impact would be to squelch any further development in an area that will otherwise develop naturally due to the work being done to upgrade the Coastal Road. Villagers, who at first were persuaded by Vulcan with the promise of jobs, have come to realize that the damages strip mining would cause are too great. Stakeholders in the area are afraid of losing everything. This strip mine would literally kill any other investment in the area including new development that will provide jobs for locals.

More importantly, there are alternate buyers who have already gone through process and who would have a positive impact on the local and national economy. These buyers intend to build a hospital for medical tourism. They are willing to work with the organization putting the Maya Mountain Corridor in place.

We cannot afford to allow this type of environmental degradation to happen in Belize. Their contingency contract was extended to October of this year because of Covid-19. Time is of the essence in confronting them. The Villagers and the threatened wild species at stake deserve our protection. They are an asset to our beautiful nation.

May we recognize, especially in this time of pandemic, how interdependent we all are. Humans and Nature: wilderness and wild species from the greatest in size to the most miniscule, we all have an impact. What we do matters. The choices we make today affect tomorrow. PLEASE SAY NO TO VULCAN aka CARACOL HOLDINGS. NO STRIP MINES IN BELIZE!

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Disaster Risk CEO says Vulcan mining could be detrimental

Another Government Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kenrick Williams from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management has weighed in on the interest of Vulcan Mining Company.

At a recent event, Dr. Williams spoke about the potential damages such a project could cause should it be allowed to continue.


Look at this

Carcinogenic Dust - Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry
Rock quarries create invisible dust particles proven to cause silicosis-a progressive, incurable lung disease. Long-term exposure to particulate matter is strongly associated with heart disease, stroke, infertility, and pregnancy complications.

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Vulcan Denies Using Divide and Conquer Strategy in Gales Point

As we reported last week, Vulcan Materials Company has written to the people of Gales Point, offering them jobs that pay two times the existing minimum wage to carry out additional core sampling on White Ridge Farms where it intends to conduct mining activities. Since then, there has been what is being described as a divide and conquer tactic, often times used to win over a majority decision on a particular issue. But today, through their White Ridge partners, Vulcan denied using that strategy and offered an update on where they are with the project proposal.� News Five's Marion Ali reports.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Area Representative, Belize Rural Central

"I am perturbed that we are getting reports of a divide and conquer strategy by this company."

Marion Ali, Reporting

Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Area Representative for Belize Rural Central, has expressed concern over reports she has received that Vulcan is employing unsavory tactics to win the support of the majority of people in Gales Point, who are in need of economic upliftment. Vulcan Materials Company's Jimmy Fleming sent us a response to this and other allegations that have surfaced about them; it reads, quote "This allegation is not true. It is baseless and without merit. We operate in full compliance with U.S., Belize, and international regulations. We adhere to strict company-wide business conduct policies and ethics across all of our operations," unquote. The Minister told us today that villagers had raised concerns to her several months ago that they did not support the mining project that the company is planning to carry out in their backyard, and that she had acted on their behalf.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Area Representative, Belize Rural Central

"I had approached, on behalf of the people of Gales Point and of course the Chairman, Mr. Jason Altschaft, I approached Minister Cordel and made some vigorous lobbying on behalf of my people of Gales Point and I found him to be very receptive and in agreement that this is not the kind of thing that is good for that community and its environs, not only because of manatees and baby turtles, but also because we want to keep out country pristine. And if we have Blue Bond commitments, then I believe that we should try to comply as much as possible."

Minister Garcia says that there's been a clear position taken by conservationists and environmentalists against the project.

Dolores Baleramos -Garcia

"Other persons, entities and organizations have chimed in but I believe that recently we have seen a definitive position. The Belize Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy - the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy have been cautious. I believe I could say they've been cautious, you know, they're not coming down on one side, but I think you could parse it. If you look at it carefully, there has been a tremendous amount of objection. There are many letters, as you have brought over the news and the people of Gales Point, I believe, the majority of them are standing firm."

Last week Gales Point elder, Leroy Andrewin told us how much the natural scenery benefits his tours. Minister Garcia said tourism is one of the sources of revenues that the government has planned for Gales Point, especially with the resurfacing of the access road to the village.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

"Minister Anthony Mahler has discussed with me recently a little project that we may be able to provide between fifteen and twenty septic tanks for some of the people so that we can enhance the cleanliness of the community so that the tourists can come in. And Also, I want to mention that through the Social Investment Fund, and I have been lobbying for this, through SIF, there is on stream there is a proposal to build a new pre-school and also to fully rehabilitate the government primary school of Gales Point."

Vulcan meanwhile, has provided us with an update on the economic activity that the sampling has created for Gales Point villagers. The information from Jimmy Fleming reads, quote: "As of last week, twenty-four men and women from Gales Point Manatee began work on property maintenance. That work will be ongoing as we continue fulfilling our commitment as responsible property owners and neighbors. There will be additional work opportunities on more projects throughout the year, unquote. Vulcan's goal is to get an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment approved in order that it may be able to carry out the mining of aggregates. Marion Ali for News Five.

Channel 5

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What Does The Environment Minister Think Of Vulcan Materials?

We asked the Minister for his take on the situation with Vulcan Material Company - which wants to mine the hills of White Ridge Farm, right next to Gales Point village. You've heard from the Minister of Natural Resources, who has outright rejected the project, and you've heard from the PM, who said he doesn't think Cabinet will approve it. Even the area rep, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, is on the side of the residents who are vehemently against the project.

Environment Minister Habet said he also has his concerns.

Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development
"As a matter of fact, I have visited the area. I know that the people were really strongly against it, not only because of the material that will possibly end up in the sea, affect the alkalinity of the ocean, change the entire biodiversity of the area. We are also concern that if those hills are broken down, that's the landmark going from Belize City by boat over to Gales Point, but also on the other side of biodiversity there are a lot of animal species that will be affected, so really the ministry doesn't look at it favourably either. Of course, anybody can apply, but whether or not it will be approved is something else. But ultimately the government will have to decide, if not now, hopefully sooner than later on what kind of development it really wants going forward and possibly one of the faults that we have maybe along with other governments is that we have plan and made plan for maybe 5 years after election and we have to start looking at maybe 40-50 years development plans and not only with the party, but maybe bring in the opposition party, the churches, civil society and everybody else, so that we can see where we want to be in 50 years. So whether another party gets in to form the form the government, they might be able to change how you get there, but you can't change that's where we want to go, because that's something that's a national development plan."

Channel 7

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Tourism Minister says Hell No to Vulcan

The proposed mining activity in the vicinity of Gales Point Village has been with objections from various quarters, including several members of the Brice�o administration. Tourism Minister Anthony Mahler was also asked about the proposed investment by Vulcan Materials Company at White Ridge Farms near Gales Point Manatee. He says hell no to Vulcan.

Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism

"I was the first one to bring it to cabinet because I go to the Gales Point area often. I go to fish in Manatee River and Sibun. And so I go up there; I have some friends up there. They brought it to my attention many, many months ago. I brought it to cabinet. If you go back to the House, you will see one of my presentations. I said hell no to Vulcan. We don't need that type of investment here in this country."

Channel 5

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