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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 18th, 2015
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.”
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.
Jamaica Environment Trust
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,