Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – an editorial from Belize

The following editorial by Ed Boles is from The Belize Ag Report, a monthly agricultural report. We are grateful to The Belize Ag Report and to Dr Ed Boles for their permission to reproduce the article in The Violence of Development website.

The Belize Ag Report, #45 Spring 2022

Spring 2022, Issue 45

Guest Editorial By Ed Boles, PhD Aquatic Ecologist

Representatives of Vulcan Materials Company (VMC), headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, visited Belize on a fact finding mission in December, 2019, and alerted many people of the Stann Creek District coastal area that the company intended to purchase the 6,000 hectare (15,000 acre) White Ridge Farm.

They sent down a company team to conduct test borings of the karst and granite rock in early 2020. Their goal is to establish a foothold in Belize with a working aggregate mine and ship the mined materials from the karst hills of White Ridge Farm to southeastern United States. Their intention is to strip away the forest and soil, continually blast the limestone hills, breaking them apart, crushing rocks into graded sizes of aggregates required for roadbeds, fill, concrete and asphalt mixes, and other construction uses in the US where limestone deposits are now less available.

The material is to be transported over land and into the inner channel off the coast just south of Gales Point by a massive conveyer bridge suspended above the land and water. The conveyer bridge will be transporting crushed and sorted aggregates to Panamax self-loading ships waiting at anchor in the deeper waters of the inner channel. Dredging will be required to accommodate the 228 meters (748 ft., or longer) vessels with 13.5 to 14 m (44 to 46 ft.) draft, and the area will need to be large and deep enough to turn these vessels.

The scale of the project and the removal of karst features/ aquifers is not compatible with the sustainable use of this area that conservation NGOs and residents have been envisioning and striving toward for three decades. The VMC mission is “to provide quality products and services which consistently meet our customers’ expectations; to be responsible stewards with respect to the safety and environmental impact of our operations and products; and to earn superior returns for our shareholders.”

The first guiding principle listed on the VMC website is integrity, stating “We will work constantly to earn the respect and trust of all parties we interact with by acting fairly and honorably. We will observe high ethical standards and obey all laws and regulations.” Areas within the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard states have few locally available aggregate resources remaining. These areas are supplied from quarries in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico just south of Playa del Carmen, shipped to US ports by the VMC fleet of Panamax-class, self-unloading ships, and moved by barge and rail to market locations.

Public protests against the mine continue, as do protests and court cases in many areas of the US where VMC operates. Now this multi-billion-dollar company has set sights on the limestone deposits in Belize right next to the largest Hawksbill sea turtle nesting beach and largest congregation of manatees in the western Caribbean. Scraping away the forest and soil from a karst deposit imposes many impacts, including increasing the rate of stormwater runoff and erosion of the disturbed landscape and heavy sediment loads entering streams and the river. Karst water supplies are vulnerable to unwise land use activities that change the vegetation and geology of an area and can impact water users located at large distances from the water source. Deforestation and soil removal reduces the infiltration of rainwater into the ground that ultimately recharges aquifers. Unfiltered water from mining sites that enters groundwater resources from the mining pit or sink holes can greatly reduce groundwater quality. Ground vibrations created by rock blasting and heavy equipment can loosen small particles within fractured rock and conduits, increasing turbidity within groundwater, which can show up in people’s wells. Given the larger caverns and conduits within karst aquifers, groundwater moves much faster than occurs in other rock types, and any pollutants and pathogens in contaminated water are transported long distances compared to other aquifer forming rocks. Disruption of a groundwater conduit by mining activities can change the flow path of a large volume of groundwater, causing water to be redirected to discharge outlets in other locations, drying up damaged streams. Mine pit dewatering, the water being pumped out so mining can continue, can change local groundwater hydrology by lowering the water table, creating a cone of depression, similar to the effects of a large well on surrounding groundwater. Water bodies, springs, and wells within the cone of depression created by a mine pit penetrating the saturated zone can reduce inflow and may go dry due to the changed flow of groundwater. Many sinkholes often occur within the cone of depression caused by a limestone pit mine.

The continual blasting and drilling and the continual movement of materials over the conveyer bridge will create patterns of vibrations that may affect manatee, sea turtles, and other wildlife in the area. Besides the impact on wildlife, these sounds will become a continual set of noises within the landscape, particularly those areas within a few miles of the mine.

Ultimately, we are not sure just what the impact will be on the wildlife within the surrounding land and waters…until it starts to happen. The United States does not produce enough limestone to satisfy its consumption rate, importing mainly from Canada, Mexico, and China. This explains the strong interest in setting up the first of what could become several mines in Belize. Many limestone sites in the US are off limits to mining, having been developed into housing complexes, parks, protected areas, important aquifers, and other uses. It is also now harder to establish mines in new places within the United States because people do not want quarries near their residences.

VMC has been in litigation with many communities affected by their mining activities spread around the United States because of the impacts given above and more. Because of this increasing resistance to mining in the US, those impacts, including damage to groundwater resources, air quality reduction from dusts, noise pollution from blasting and heavy equipment, habitat loss, disruption of scenic vistas, and the overall degradation of the landscape are being exported to other countries, out of sight and out of mind to the many people who will be traveling over road beds made from the pulverized karst hills of Belize.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Boles, adjunct faculty member of Galen University, is known all over Belize for his expertise in conservation. He has spent over 30 years conducting rapid ecological assessments of watersheds and wetlands; promoting protection and restoration of steep slope, riparian, and wetland forests as critical components of watershed management; helping standardize water and watershed assessment methodologies and protocols; encouraging environmental research projects that inform conservation initiatives; and involving Belizean and international youth in these activities.

Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – a follow-up

In the May 2022 additions to The Violence of Development website, we included an article entitled ‘Vulcan Materials Company and Gales Point – an editorial from Belize’. The editorial was written by Dr Ed Boles. Since May, there has been some correspondence between Dr Boles and the Vulcan Materials Company. We are grateful to Ed Boles for his permission to reproduce the contents of three emails in The Violence of Development website.

In the website, the editorial appears before this correspondence and should of course be read, or remembered, before this exchange of emails and opinions which is made up of:

  1. 2nd August letter from you to various contacts regarding the Vulcan Materials Company’s project of aggregate mining in the Stann Creek District.
  2. 5th August email response from Janet Kavinoky of Vulcan Materials Company.
  3. Ed Boles’ 15th August response to Janet’s response.


In turn the three emails follow.

On Tue, Aug 2, 2022 at 7:16 PM ‘ed boles’ via wrcontact <> wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

As a concerned citizen of Belize, I am providing information about Vulcan Materials Company (attached), a multi-billion dollar aggregate mining company in the United States, and its purchase of White Ridge Farm in the Stann Creek District of Belize.  Their 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. 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 center of the Inner Channel behind the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Spokes persons for the current Belize Government have stated that no strip mining shall occur in this area.

However, 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. In response these shutdowns, Vulcan has two lawsuit against the Mexican Government for $1.1 and $1.5 billion USD and the International Center for Investment Disputes shall be issuing a decision. Ten US republican senators are urging US President Biden to protect Vulcan and put strong pressure on Mexico. Vulcan Materials has a long history of litigation within many areas of the United States where they operate mines, so this is nothing new to their legal team and their US political support.

This web address,, takes you to the site where Vulcan Materials describes benefits of having this company within Belize. The attached document tells a very different story, reviewing the scientific literature describing ecological and social impacts of limestone mining and taking a close look at the Vulcan site near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The Calica Mine in Mexico is an indicator of what can happen in Belize if this corporation gets set up in our small country. If the Government of Belize had to take action against Vulcan for violations of their agreement and failure to protect the environment, as is occurring in many places where Vulcan is operating, we too could face a billion dollar plus lawsuit backed by a powerful and well-funded group of corporate lawyers. If this mega corporation gets a foothold in our small country, our world renowned ecological resources and cultural/social identity may change forever.

The Vulcan team arrives this month to begin groundwork to get the mine eventually opened. The word needs to get out. The people need to know who we are up against and what the real stakes are, the real cost we and our great grandchildren shall have to bare. If this is of concern to you, please help us spread the word. Forward this document to anyone who may be interested in helping us protect our country from this corporate resource grab. We need all the assistance and support we can muster against this threat that if realized shall impact our ecosystems, water resources, ecotourism, economy, and cultural integrity. We need to collectively speak out.

Please share this with your Belize networks. Thank you for your attention and your concern.

Ed Boles

Aquatic Ecologist


On Friday, August 5, 2022 at 11:31:24 AM GMT-6, Kavinoky, Janet <> wrote:

Dear Dr. Boles,

Thank you for including us on this note to share with us for the first time your concerns on The White Ridge Project. As we move forward, we are committed to maintaining transparent, open lines of communication with stakeholders to share project facts and respond to questions and concerns.

In this spirit, we wanted to set the record straight on certain claims made in your email and attached draft report. In our view, these claims are inaccurate and unfortunately, even if unintentionally, misleading.

It is misleading to try and quantify or detail environmental impacts before an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been conducted for The White Ridge Project. Vulcan Materials Company has not yet finalized a purchase of the White Ridge Farm property. If Vulcan purchases the White Ridge Farm property, the project will undergo a rigorous and scientifically thorough EIA, conducted to World Bank standards and consistent with all Belizean regulations. That report will discuss scientific findings on any environmental impacts and a comprehensive plan on how best to address them. All relevant updates on the EIA process, including opportunities for stakeholder input, will be posted to our website and Facebook channels.

We are committed to developing The White Ridge Project as an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable limestone quarry. We will act as responsible stewards of the unique flora and fauna on the White Ridge Farm property. This is how we operate across each and every one of our hundreds of sites in North America, and how we will operate in Belize, should we develop the project. Consistent with our company-wide commitment to environmental stewardship and ethics, we will only proceed with this project if it can be demonstrably proven that it can be done in a way that takes into account the overall environment and surrounding ecosystems. We will continue to have open, ongoing conversations with stakeholders on the number of wide-ranging economic and environmental benefits this project can have for the Gales Point community and the nation as a whole.

We have a decades-long history of successful and productive operations in Mexico. Our operations have contributed greatly to the local economy and local education, having been recognized on numerous occasions for our environmental stewardship. Over a 14-year-period, the Mexican government repeatedly awarded our operation with its “Clean Industry Certificate” – the highest official environmental award given by the government of Mexico to businesses operating in Mexico. We hold, and always have held, all authorizations and permits required by and granted under Mexican law to operate safely and environmentally responsibly in Mexico. When appropriate, we have defended our rights as consistent with the law, as is the case with the in-progress NAFTA arbitration filed in mid-2018. We encourage you to read the facts on our environmental conservation work in our most recent SAC-TUN sustainability report.

As the EIA process determines environmental data and needs surrounding this project, we will continue to work with local leaders and the community to support public health needs, education, welfare, and jobs for the citizens of Gales Point and the surrounding areas.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns. We hope to maintain an open line of dialogue with you moving forward.



Janet F. Kavinoky
Vice President, External Affairs & Corporate Communications
Vulcan Materials Company

Corporate Office: 1200 Urban Center Dr, Birmingham, AL, 35242
Mailing Address: PO Box 385014, Birmingham, AL, 35238-5014
Desk  205-298-3023  |  Cell  205-757-5643  |


15 August 2022

To: Janet F. Kavinoky

Vice President, External Affairs & Corporate Communications
Vulcan Materials Company
1200 Urban Center Dr.

Birmingham, AL, 35242

Dear Ms. Kavinokyj,

Your response to my email and attached document does serve to open lines of communication. In that same spirit of sharing facts, I would like to address those claims you consider to be inaccurate if you will identify the ones to which you refer. I offer an extensive list of impacts caused by limestone strip mining as revealed in an internet search of the literature, a task to which any EIA consultant would appreciate already being compiled, except for more recent and less accessible documents.

It is difficult to visualize an environmentally and socially sustainable, large-scale strip mine or open pit mine, and just what would make it so. Records of your corporation’s extractive mining operations across the United States and in Mexico, including fines, litigation, community protests, and headlines, describe Vulcan as something other than a responsible steward of those ecosystems where you have established mines. The reports I read on the Calica mine, or SAC-TUN, also tell a very different story. When the Mexican Government responded to abuses of your mining privileges, not rights, by finally shutting down the mine, the Government must then defend itself against a $1.5 billion-dollar lawsuit in an international court. This recent history also raises alarm as to what we might expect to happen in Belize, given Vulcan’s reputation. Our small country could not defend itself against even trumped-up charges in an international court. Why should we have to? Why assume that risk to us and future generations?

Besides, Vulcan is clearly not a suitable industry for Belize, not at the scale being considered, and certainly not for export. We are building an economy based on agriculture, tourism, technological services, and light manufacturing. We are working to reduce impacts to our beautiful country, not to open the door to companies wanting to scrape away our headwater forests and mine our aquifer bearing hills, changing water table levels and stream flow patterns, shattering our tranquility, eroding the local culture and biodiversity, polluting our coastal zone, and driving away tourists. A large-scale limestone open pit mine producing aggregates for export by large, deep-draft freighters, requiring huge, dredged harbors is not part of our vision, indeed it is a plan that is being met with growing opposition. Did you not hear Minister Hyde’s announcement? No license shall be issued. This is backed up by our Blue Bond agreement, and in growing numbers by our people. Vulcan is not welcomed in Belize. We are not your replacement for SAC-TUN.

Thank you for considering these above points and issues. I look forward to a constructive dialog.

In Stewardship,

Ed Boles

Aquatic Ecologist