This is an August 11 press release from the Jamaica Environment Trust.
More than seventy residents from Cockpit Country (Elderslie, Niagara, Mocho, Maroon Town, Flagstaff and Point) attended a community meeting on Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Elderslie, St. Elizabeth to discuss the controversial issue of bauxite mining in Cockpit Country.
Following a series of public meetings organized by the University of the West Indies in 2013 to gather input into the decision to declare a boundary for Cockpit Country, residents remain unsure of what will be the official boundary for the proposed protected area and if mining will be prohibited within that boundary. As the residents await answers from the government on these pressing issues, they voiced their overwhelming opposition to plans for bauxite mining and expressed a wish to see the area closed to mining at the recently held community meeting.
Cockpit Country is a source for forty percent of Jamaica’s water supply, home to many Maroons and a habitat for rare Jamaican animals – including 95 per cent of the wild population of Jamaican Black-Billed Parrots [see my note below] and at least 66 plant species found nowhere else in the world. “We do not support mining in Cockpit Country. We would prefer to see more interest in eco-tourism for the area,” says Clavie Johnson, Principal of the Elderslie Primary and Junior High School.
“There are people living here for years and for them to come in to mine our lands the people would have to leave, and they don’t have anywhere else to farm,” says Enis Wallace, resident of the Niagara community.
“It will damage our health, farms, watershed and livelihood”: Calvin Shirley of the South West Cockpit Country Local Forest Management Committee.
“NO to bauxite mining as it will damage our heritage sites”: Michael Shaw of the South West Cockpit Country Local Forest Management Committee.
“NO, because it will damage our heritage and we want to retain our heritage”: Millicent Clark of the Point Benevolent Society.
“The issue of mining in Cockpit Country became a matter of public concern in 2006. This resource is important for many people in Jamaica and the Government should move forward in the process for declaring the boundary,” says Danielle Andrade, Legal Director of the Jamaica Environment Trust.
The meeting was organized by the Elderslie Benevolent Society, Windsor Research Centre, the South West Cockpit Country Local Forest Management Committee, the Niagara community and the Jamaica Environment Trust.
I can provide contact details for all of the above commentators on request. Also do join the Facebook page “Protect Jamaica’s Cockpit Country!”
Note on the Black-Billed Parrot: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes on its Red List of endangered species, where it is listed as “Vulnerable”: “This species has a very small range…The species may qualify for uplifting [to “Endangered”] should all three proposed mining concessions in Cockpit Country be granted.”