Bauxite Mining Begins in Cockpit Country: This Is A Betrayal, Says JET; An Invasion, Says Windsor Research Centre


This is very disturbing news. Back in August 2014, a large group of concerned citizens met in Elderslie, St. Elizabeth and unanimously opposed bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country. There have been public consultations (I attended one about two years ago in Kingston), but still no decision on the issue of the boundaries of Cockpit Country. Please see today’s (May 18) press releases from the Jamaica Environment Trust and from the Windsor Research Centre, which is situated in Cockpit Country.

Noranda's invasion of Cockpit Country.
Noranda’s invasion of Cockpit Country: The location of the mining activity.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 18th, 2015
Kingston, Jamaica

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is alarmed to receive reports that extension of haul roads and deployment of mining equipment has begun within Cockpit Country borders south of Stewart Town. Despite numerous assurances from the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) that bauxite mining would not be permitted in Cockpit Country, reports from community members and site visits by a member of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) have confirmed that Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partnership (NJBP) has begun these mining operations. 

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) commissioned a Cockpit Country boundary study to be done by the University of the West Indies (UWI) and this was completed in 2008. The public consultation process on mining in Cockpit Country as well as the proposed boundaries was done in 2013. The report released in September 2013 concluded: “The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) should not authorize any form of exploration of mineral deposits, mining and quarrying activity within the Cockpit Country as the level of emotion is too high and level of opposition and resistance by community members and leaders, CBOs, NGOs and civil society organizations, some Government of Jamaica agencies and members of the academic community may not provide enough guarantee and confidence for potential investors.”

“To now learn that the GOJ has gone ahead and allowed Noranda to begin mining operations in Cockpit Country without any dialogue with stakeholders and without the declaration of the long promised boundary and protection regime is a betrayal of good faith,” said JET CEO, Diana McCaulay. “According to Noranda’s website, the mining operations in Jamaica are carried out by Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partnership, which is owned by the GOJ (51%) and Noranda Bauxite Limited (49%). Our own Government is the majority shareholder in this operation.”

Looking westward.
Looking westward.

JET understands that the current operations by Noranda have not obtained an environmental permit under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act, which is required under Jamaican law, nor has there been any requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

JET calls on the Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Robert Pickersgill, to immediately stop the work and to finally do what he has long promised – identify and declare boundaries for Cockpit Country. In addition, we again call on the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the Hon. Phillip Paulwell, to close Cockpit Country to mining.

Diana McCaulay
Jamaica Environment Trust
469-1315

Two D-9 Bulldozers at work on the Haul Road with Cockpit Country in the background.
Two D-9 Bulldozers at work on the Haul Road with Cockpit Country in the background.

Below is a press release from the Windsor Research Centre, which is located in Sherwood Content, Trelawny, inside Cockpit Country:

NORANDA INVADES COCKPIT COUNTRY:

Windsor Research Centre (WRC), which is located five kilometers inside Cockpit Country, is appalled to discover that Noranda Bauxite Ltd has invaded Cockpit Country.

“No Mining in Cockpit Country”! That is what the public has been saying since 2006 and it is what Government of Jamaica (GoJ) has been promising us. But… within the last two weeks, Noranda has crossed the Cockpit Country boundary with a Haul Road in preparation for mining. How can this be?

Here is what we know so far:

•This breach is taking place right now, near Bryan Castle in St Ann at the Madras / Caledonia crossroad. We observed it yesterday (17th May 2015) and took photographs (see attached).

•Noranda has a Special Mining Lease (SML) # 165 inherited from St Ann Bauxite Ltd and dated October 2004. This allows them to mine up to the eastern boundary of Cockpit Country (see attached map) and it is valid until 2030.

•The new Haul Road is outside the SML 165 and is penetrating so-called “Special Reserves”, which are inside Cockpit Country. According to SML 165, these reserves are to be used only if it turns out that there is less bauxite than predicted within the said SML. In this case the Minister must grant the Lessee a new SML.

We therefore ask GoJ to clarify the basis upon which they are allowing Noranda to mine the Special Reserves.

• Is the bauxite in SML 165 finished?

• If so, how could it be that the bauxite in SML 165 is already finished after only 10 years out of a 26-year Lease?

• Was a new Special Mining Lease issued?

• If so, what account was taken of the importance of the Cockpit Country’s natural and cultural heritage and the still unresolved issue of the boundary?

• Was an Environmental Permit requested or obtained?

• Was an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out?

WRC calls upon GoJ to refer to its own study, “Public Consultations on Defining The Boundaries of Cockpit Country” which was commissioned from University of the West Indies (UWI) and published in 2013; we call upon the Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Robert Pickersgill, to declare the boundaries of Cockpit Country, as recommended by the Public Consultations and we ask that Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the Hon. Phillip Paulwell, close Cockpit Country to mining in line with GoJ’s assurances.

Prepared by Michael Schwartz (Director)

Windsor Research Centre,
Sherwood Content,
Trelawny.

Email <windsor@cwjamaica.com>

Tel 997-3832

Looking Westward into Cockpit Country.
Looking Westward into Cockpit Country.

 


8 thoughts on “Bauxite Mining Begins in Cockpit Country: This Is A Betrayal, Says JET; An Invasion, Says Windsor Research Centre

  1. I was under the impression that the Cockpits were permanently off limits. There goes everything. The entire island will be like a barren wasteland in a few decades. Where are the environmental groups?

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    1. Well, as you can see from the press releases, the environmental groups sounded the alarm. They have done a lot. There was a big media campaign to raise awareness of the Cockpit Country last year (“Cockpit Country Is Our Home”), there have been numerous community meetings and the environmental groups have joined with local stakeholders to establish their own boundaries for Cockpit Country. Last year there were public consultations island wide, at which environmental groups, the Maroons and other groups expressed their opposition to bauxite mining. It was all documented. But the Government is determined to “fix” the boundaries, but has not decided where they should be. By the way, this has been going on for years. Environmental groups have been fully aware and have got the word out that Cockpit Country is a precious resource and definitely off limits. Many Jamaicans are actually fully aware of the importance of this area, and the reaction to all of this has been a strong one. Representatives from Windsor Research Centre (in Cockpit) will be on TVJ’s “All Angles” show focusing on Cockpit, and there will be much more noise made about it.

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  2. This seems to be the new process of the Jamaican government: announce a plan that will damage Jamaica for the shortsighted not-worth-it now money and then wait a couple of years for the voices of concerned Jamaicans to die down, before going ahead and doing what they want to do to the detriment of the country. The government is acting more and more arrogant, year after year, making decisions against the wishes of the people.

    The future is looking very dim for my homeland. From the rampant and ever-increasing crime, to selling off every valuable resource to the Chinese or other foreigners and destroying our national treasures like Goat Island and Cockpit Country.

    I fear nothing much will be left for future generations of Jamaicans.

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    1. I share all your fears and concerns, Donna – eloquently expressed! You are right. There was a good campaign last year on Cockpit Country, around the time the public consultations were held (the Maroons participated in all of them and passionately opposed any mining in the area). Now, people stopped talking about it for a while, and the bulldozers appear! And the Government has the nerve to say they weren’t aware of it?
      Now, as you are aware, the Chinese were given 1,200 acres of land in Jamaica (anywhere – they could choose their spot) as the wonderful highway they built wasn’t going to make enough money for them (the tolls are quite high). So they are now going to build three hotels, 600 homes and a commercial area on the land they have chosen, which happens to be adjoining Dunn’s River – a watershed area called Roaring River. They are also in a great hurry, so it seems…http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Government-to-makes-changes-to-CHEC-agreement_18989296 I can’t say any more. It chokes me up. We will be leaving an island of concrete, no water, bad air for future generations.

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  3. How do we raise an alarm about this? Is it in the papers? What can concerned citizens do to make the government wake up and pay attention, or to hold them accountable if they’re the ones letting this happen?

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    1. Dear Robyn:The alarm has been raised. A delegation of government officials is going down to the site today to see whether it is “within the boundaries” (their version of boundaries, I guess), having said it wasn’t taking place in the Cockpit Country. The main thing is to spread the word – keep people aware and help people to understand the serious issues behind this. For years now (I have reported this in my blog a few times) the Government has been unable to decide on the “boundaries” – now they may be forced to, thanks to the efforts of NGOs such as JET and widespread media reports (one has to make noise!)

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      1. The traditional ways of getting attention (writing to your MP, etc) are ignored, unfortunately. Advocacy is the way to go, by whatever means possible. Making people aware and raising consciousness about the things that really matter!

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