The Making of an Industry
At the beginning of the 18th century Sir Humphrey Davy anticipated the existence of the metal aluminium. The metal was positively identified later that century. However, its commercial production did not begin until the 1890s, after two inventors - Charles Martin Hall (whose father served as a Congregational minister for ten years in the parish of St. Mary) in the
It was not until World War II, however, when demand for the metal increased, that attention was paid to bauxite deposits outside Europe, the
Between 1938 and 1942, Sir Alfred Da'Costa, a Jamaican businessman, was having soil fertility tests done on his farm at Lydford,
Through Da'Costa's efforts, the existence of the aluminous soils was brought to the attention of (a) the authorities in the United Kingdom, from whom it was passed on to the Canadians through their sole company, Alcan; and (b) the Dutch firm, Billiton, through his connection as Dutch Honorary Consul in Jamaica. In any event, the Dutch firm did not have a long stay here and so, for a while, Alcan was the sole explorer of the reserves in the island.
Two other North American companies - Reynolds and Kaiser - were later to join in. In 1952, Reynolds began exporting bauxite from Ocho Rios, and a year later Kaiser launched its export activities from Post Kaiser on the south coast. Alcan built an alumina plant near its mines at Kirkvine,
Development of the Industry
After the first shipments, production increased rapidly, and within five years
In 1959, Alcan built a second refinery at Ewarton, St. Catherine. By 1961, a fourth company, ALCOA, had begun operating in
The 1970s brought changes to
Notwithstanding the island's volume of production, because of energy constraints, no smelters were built in
Since 1988, the local industry has recovered in line with the world aluminium industry, and output has returned to the levels which prevailed in 1980.