There are a couple of environmental matters that I am learning about – one already in the news, and another I discovered by accident.
Firstly, Minister of Transport and Mining Robert Montague has been making some speeches recently. No, not just talking about the taxi drivers (castigating and placating them at the same time, all in one speech). In case you didn’t know, this week has been National Minerals Week. There were various events, and a Technical Conference. A few days ago, Minister Montague, wearing his Mining Hat, reported that his administration has granted ninety – yes, ninety – prospecting licenses for minerals since March, 2018. And I quote (from the Gleaner report – the italics are mine):
“’Right now, almost every square inch of Jamaica is under a prospecting licence for some kind of mineral. The beauty of it, is that most of the companies that are prospecting… are Jamaican-owned. So if [for example] gold is found… in commercial quantities, the profits will stay here.’
The minister assured, however, that the Government is encouraging and facilitating the exploitation of minerals ‘in a very sustainable and structured way.‘”
I am not sure how one exploits the land in a very sustainable way.
I came across a video that I thought I would share with you, from the Ministry’s Facebook page. It focuses on a speech by mining expert Dr. Arthur Geddes, and another by the Managing Director and founder of a Jamaican company called Geophysx, Robert Stewart. He is the son of Sandals International chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart.
The latter presentation (the second half of the video) interested me. Mr. Stewart says his company is “starting a new industry” in Jamaica. We have bauxite mining, we have limestone quarrying…Now, get ready for…more mining!
Mr. Stewart is excited about the new technology he has acquired to find out where metal deposits might be and to start drilling. According to comments on the Geophysx Instagram page, he is interested in copper deposits in particular, with a focus on the parishes of St. Ann, St. Mary, St. Catherine, St. Andrew and Portland.
His company purchased six licenses from a Canadian company, Carube Copper Corp, in June. Incidentally, Carube is still looking for copper and gold in St. Catherine, Portland and other parishes and is focusing on a place called Main Ridge in Clarendon, as well as Bellas Gate in St. Catherine. There is a lovely picture of a relatively unspoiled Jamaican landscape on its webpage.
Back to Geophysx, which Mr. Stewart asserts in the Facebook video is going to “tread very gently.” He says that “most of the science is passive in nature.” I am not sure how one prospects for minerals passively and gently. He is getting “fantastic support from Government,” he says. He mentioned a “couple of dozen sites” that are looking encouraging, adding that the first drilling program “starts in three weeks.” Just in time for Christmas. Professor Simon Mitchell, Head of the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UWI students have been providing support for the project.
Secondly, we were in beautiful Salt River, Clarendon last week. It was remarkably green, after all the rain we have been having. Even the dry limestone forest of the Brazilletto Mountains was flourishing and displaying the brightest of colors, instead of looking…well dry, and very dusty from the ever-expanding limestone quarry down the road.
I posted the photo on social media as an example of the careless disregard for the environment that we see everywhere. Trucks dump construction waste indiscriminately and with impunity (they are never held to account, and it’s easy to ignore a “no dumping” sign) and we often share photos of the garbage dumps that appear overnight.
This is particularly true of marginalized communities such as New Haven (where I noted in this blog six years ago that “some of the empty lots are being used as illegal dumps by passing trucks – piles of construction rubble and so on – on a regular basis.”) The same applies to Seaview Gardens in Kingston, where pieces of open land are desecrated by truck drivers too cheap and lazy to go to the Riverton City dump. They can get away with this more easily than in uptown areas; we know “poor people” have few rights, and that includes environmental rights.
I thought this dump by the lovely riverside was a particularly egregious example. To my horror, I learned that it was put there by a local person who wanted to create a “development” on the river, involving sandbags, to create a swimming area – where endangered crocodiles and a range of waterbirds and plants currently call home. Apparently the wannabe developer does not have a permit – and so one hopes that he/she will kindly remove the eyesore that is there. Some hope!
Words fail me.
On a happier note, there is a glimmer of hope regarding the pink poui tree. Please stay tuned!