JAM | Nov 3, 2021

JET calls for Government to honour commitment to not mine Cockpit Country

/ Our Today

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Dr Susan Koenig making a presentation on bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country during the 2019 staging of Green Expo. (Photo: Twitter @JamEnTrust)

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is dismayed that, after the prime minister’s announcement in 2017 of a boundary for the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and his promise to close the area to mining, the Mines and Geology Division (MGD) has now announced a new Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence which at several points falls within the boundary of the CCPA and includes land belonging to the Accompong Maroons.

JET, in a statement on Tuesday (November 2), argued that when Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement on November 21, 2017, he explicitly said that bauxite mining would not be allowed within the CCPA boundary.

“He also stated that if any existing Special Mining Leases (SMLs) and Special Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (SEPLs) fell within the CCPA boundary, they would need to be modified,” JET contended.

Just shy of four years later, on September 29, 2021 a notice from Mines and Geology Division (MGD) in the newspaper indicated that JISCO ALPART JAMAICA of Old Spur Tree Road, Spur Tree P.O. Manchester applied for a licence to prospect for bauxite mining under SEPL 643.

According to JET, the notice did not include a sketch plan of the area but did include coordinates.

Dr Susan Koenig of Windsor Research Centre (WRC) was able to map the proposed licence area using the published coordinates and descriptions. It showed that SEPL 643 not only covered the majority of the Appleton Valley area, but encroached on the CCPA boundary several times.

“If this notice proves to be correct, then WRC considers that to be an egregious abuse of the public’s trust that GoJ promised to close Cockpit Country to bauxite mining. We also believe this to be a retraction of the Government’s ‘Duty of Care’ to protect Jamaicans from environmental harm,” a perturbed Dr Koenig expressed.

Dr Rodriguez-Moodie, JET’s CEO said, “This has to be some kind of mistake on the part of MGD. I cannot imagine that following the Prime Minister’s announcement the MGD would even consider granting a licence in the CCPA, especially knowing that the lease area includes Maroon lands.”

“We cannot continue to be so careless in how we manage this important area. We have seen and heard of so many examples of communities being devastated and livelihoods lost by this industry. Our leaders cannot continue to speak when they are abroad of caring for our environment and people while allowing such destruction at home,” Rodriguez-Moodie continued.

JET signalled its intent to intensify efforts in raising awareness about the issues surrounding the costs of bauxite mining.

“We will join with other concerned stakeholders, including those who live and work in the area to prevent the clear and present danger posed by bauxite mining and processing. Finally, we ask the Government to honour its commitment to not mine Cockpit Country and to include a buffer zone as proposed in the 2013 study by Webber and Noel of the University of the West Indies,” the organisation noted.


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