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:
- 2nd August letter from you to various contacts regarding the Vulcan Materials Company’s project of aggregate mining in the Stann Creek District.
- 5th August email response from Janet Kavinoky of Vulcan Materials Company.
- 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
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, https://www.whiteridgeproject.com/, 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.
On Friday, August 5, 2022 at 11:31:24 AM GMT-6, Kavinoky, Janet <email@example.com> 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 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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.