THE SOCIOLOGY OF DECOLONIZATION: THE CASE OF GUYANA BAUXITE

THE HISTORY OF  LINDEN

Preliminary Remarks

Linden, whose former name was Mackenzie, got its name from an American engineer of Scottish descent by the name of George Bain Mackenzie who first visited the area in 1913 to look at the possibility of mining bauxite on an economical basis. Tradition has it that he told the unsuspecting inhabitants that he wanted the land to plant oranges, an assertion which seems to be substantiated by the fact that up to today litigation is still going on as to the rightful ownership of the land. Directly opposite Linden on the western bank of the river stands Wismar, where many if not most bauxite workers live. Wismar, it should be pointed out, was never company property and as a result its inhabitants ‘enjoy’ a much lower standard of living.

Since the economic aspects of Demba in nationalization has been  more  than  adequately dealt with elsewhere (2), this paper seeks only to deal with the sociological aspects.

Mining was first started in the area in 1916 at Three Friends Mine. At that time it was done on a primitive scale with a pick and shovel being used to remove the overburden . The bauxite which was shipped in a crude state was loaded onto barges which were towed down the river to waiting ships for transportation abroad.

By 1920, drying of  bauxite  had  started  and  for the next ten years the annual exp0n tonnage rose to 100,000 tons. Production  fell in the  1930’s owing  to  the  Depression, but during the 1940’s the war effort led  to an  increase ,n the  demand  tor  bauxite and export  tonnage  rose to  1,000 ,000  tons annually. The year 1938 saw  the  first  shipment  of  calcined  bauxite and from 1951 onwards there h.is been  continued expansion in bauxite product ion . In 1969, according to the President of Alcan, Demba mined  over 4,000,000 tons of bauxite.(3)

In 1961, as a result of  government  pressure  on  Demba,  the  Alumina  Plant  began operations and the company  gradually  increased  its  assets  to  the  extent  that  by 1971 the company had approximately $100,000,000 in assets in the area. As recently  as 1967 a  bridge  linking  Wismar  and   Linden  was built  by Demba  primarily  to  facilitate mining  in  the  West  Bank  mines  of  the  Company’s  operations  at Wismar.

In 1964 Demba set up the Mackenzie Development Trust with a capital rumoured to be in the  vicinity of $1 m. Guyana, for the purpose of helping workers and residents to purchase the  company houses in which they lived.