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Aug 22, 2022

Gales Point Villagers to Vulcan: “Go Away!”

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

Joan Slusher, Resident, Gales Point Village

“We nuh want Vulcan eena fi we village. We nuh need Vulcan eena fi we village.”


Nicole Andrewin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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