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ICENS Geochemical Knowledge Saves and Expensive Construction Project

In 2008 the Government of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean International (RCI) met in Kingston to agree terms of a US$224 million contract to develop the Falmouth Pier so that it could accommodate the world's largest cruise ship.  Under the contract, the government would invest US$122 million to dredge the harbour and construct the pier while RCI would develop the land-based facilities, including shops and attractions.

Independent analysis of borehole samples taken during preparatory site investigations however revealed “unusual” levels of cadmium and nickel in the drill sites, which were higher than the limits set of 0.5 mg/kg Cd and 35 mg/kg Ni.  The project was put on hold as the financiers needed to know whether the high cadmium and nickel levels detected were due to manmade pollution or were natural.   ICENS re-analysed the samples, using EDXRF analysis with a turnaround time of only 2 days, and confirmed that the cadmium and nickel levels found in the borehole samples were in line with natural values for Jamaica determined in a previous ICENS regional geochemical survey.   The project resumed after this prompt action by ICENS: had the Centre used its neutron activation analysis methods instead the analyses would have taken 6 weeks to complete.