Could Montserrat be missing the boat by simply shipping out our ash when the real potential is in refining it and turning into cash?
This was the basis of Thursday evening’s presentation by Dr. Aldrin Sweeney at the 3rd Alphonsus Arrow Cassell Memorial Lecture Series.
Sweeney noted that significant work had already been published on the Soufriere Hills Volcano prior to the eruptions in 1995. However, the body of work which now exists has created new careers, new technologies and advancement in the science of volcanology. He questioned how the island as a whole has benefited from this explosion of ash.
The associate professor did not downplay the concerns and risks of ash to public health. Noting, researchers had pointed out the primary health risks were respiratory (lungs), ocular (eyes), dermal (skin) and possible carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Sweeney went on to share several ideas, some of which have already been considered by local entrepreneurs for development of the bi-products from the volcano.
Suggestions made included:
- Pumice stones for beauty/spas
- Cement for road construction
- Building blocks
- Bentonite Clay for beauty products which has ash as one of the primary ingredients
- High end line of makeup and exfoliants
- Decorative items
- The sulphur emissions can be used in wine and other food preservation
- Ash which is made up of silicon can become chips for use in smartphones and other devices.
Businessman Kenny Cassell shared that in the late 90s a group of businessmen on island explored how they could use the ash for creating building materials such as roof tiles, a composite with wood that made it sturdy but lightweight. He showed samples of the materials to the audience who were amazed at the products made from local ash.
Cassell said the Bank of Montserrat had not been willing to invest the US$1.5 million dollars they needed to make the deal happen. Since, then the partners with the technology have passed away or moved on to other ventures. He still felt it was a viable option for the island and it would be important to find someone with the requisite technology to partner with.
The Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo said he was motivated by the evening’s discussions and the tangible evidence that his Ash into Cash mantra is indeed possible.
The lecture is the precursor to the Alliouagana Festival of the Word which begins this evening at the Montserrat Cultural Centre at 8PM.
For a full schedule of activities visit www.litfest.ms.
About Dr Aldrin Sweeney
Dr. Sweeney was born in the UK to parents from Montserrat. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in biochemistry and science education and earned a PhD in Science Education from Florida State University in 1997. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Medical Education at Ross School of Medicine in Dominica, and is on the Board of Governors of Montserrat Community College.
Dr. Sweeney’s professional areas of interest include the impact of biomedical science & technology on societal issues, the professional preparation of medical doctors, and emerging research in nanoscale science and engineering. He has published widely in these areas and has contributed as an editor, reviewer, consultant and expert review panel member to an impressive number of publications and other academic activities in his field.
While at the University of Central Florida, Dr. Sweeney received several awards for teaching and research including the Teaching Incentive Program Award; Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award; Research Incentive Award; and the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Award.