A simple ceremony at the old railroad yard opposite the Watooka House heralded the centenary of bauxite operations in Linden. And the centenary coincided with the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s independence.
Several presentations highlighted the role of bauxite in the community. There were presentations highlighting the impact of bauxite on the country and outer world by special invitees, including former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, former IMC chairman Orrin Gordon, former CEO of the Linmine Secretariat Horace James, and officials from Bosai, among others
Invitees were reminded that because the Bauxite industry paid the highest wages, persons flocked to the mining town for employment, with the result that the company became the biggest employer in the earlier days.
Tracing the history of bauxite mining over the years, senior Executive of Bosai, Orrin Barnwell, in presenting his “history in a nutshell”, told of a company that changed hands several times, beginning with ALCOA, then Alcan, Demba, Guybau, Guymine, Linmine, OMAI and finally Bosai, which manages the company.
Orrin Gordon, looking at the social aspect of life during the early days of Bauxite mining, reflected on the division that existed between the Management of the company and the ordinary workers. Those workers, and other residents of the mining Town, could not venture into the residential areas that housed the expatriates, Gordon reflected.
Gordon spoke of an incident where two former Presidents of Guyana, Cheddi and Janet Jagan,
were forced to be guests of the Mackenzie Hospital, because the management of the Watooka Club refused to accept Mr. Jagan. Only Mrs Jagan was welcome because she was white.
Horace James, who worked with the company for many years, told of how several acres of land, rich with the precious ore was bought for the incredibly low price of one dollar.
James expressed the hope that the history of bauxite would be passed on to the younger generation.
General Manager (ag) of Bosai, Eric Hue, in his congratulatory message said that over the years, bauxite has contributed significantly to Guyana’s development and has become an integral part of the country’s economy.
Hue acknowledged that bauxite emerged as one of Guyana’s most profitable sectors and that Bosai is honored to experience this period, when it celebrates 100 years of mining. Hue disclosed that BOSAI will be constructing a commemorative arch in the vicinity of the Linden Hospital Complex to mark this very significant milestone.
According to Hue in the 10 years that Bosai been operating, one of its greatest accomplishments is the installation of the US$8 million dust collector.
Former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, who was once employed in the Bauxite Company, reflected on the privatization of the sector several years ago, while exhorting, that leaders look at diversification.
”Looking back, one might put the beginning of the road to re-privatization of bauxite as far back as 1976. Five years after nationalization, to the astonishment of many, the nationalized bauxite industry could no longer hold out the possibility of steadily growing prosperity, and contributions to the National Treasury Consolidated Fund.
“Indeed the operation soon split into a period of about 15 years of losses, while receiving subsidies from the Treasury,” he pointed out.
Mayor Carwyn Holland in his reflections noted that bauxite mining has come a long way from the days of shovels and pick axe to water blasting, backhoes and other modern equipment used today.
He posited that because of the significant contributions of bauxite to not only Guyana but to countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, some sort of repatriation should be made to Guyana on this hundredth anniversary.
Those very sentiments were echoed by Regional Chairman Renis Morian, who promised to work with the Mayor towards the achievement of that goal.
Morian further turned the audience’s attention to the employees of the bauxite industry that would have contributed to its success over the years.
He also alluded to the harsh working conditions that many were forced to endure, and in recognition of many of those that have passed on, a minute of silence was observed.
Some of the activities planned for the centennial observances, include the launch of a magazine, oral history series, the erection of the arch at Linden Hospital and the establishment of a Centennial Park and industrial museum featuring life-sized relics and replicas of the early days of bauxite mining, among other things.
Among those present at the event were acting General Manager of BOSAI Eric Hue, head of the privatization unit and secretary of BOSAI Norman McLean, former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, head of NICIL Horace James, Regional Chairman Renis Morian, Mayor Carwyn Holland, deputy Mayor Wanika Arrindale, Assistant Director of the community development council Sandra Adams, Chairman of the Linden Fund USA Paula Quintin, along with other regional officials and members of the local tourism body. (Enid Joaquin)
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