Cockpit Country Stakeholders Call for Thorough EIA Consultation Process for Mining Permits

This press release from the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group is not just about environmental issues. It is about transparency, proper consultation, and democracy.

As we in Jamaica are living under restrictions during the COVID-19 era – notably, the limitations on gatherings – we cannot possibly attend in-person consultations (which have often lasted for hours in the past, in an indoor setting). Moreover, many Jamaicans in rural areas are having challenges with connectivity. So, it is even more critical that consultations with stakeholders should be thorough, substantial (with adequate time for all questions!), timely – and most importantly, should involve all stakeholders. The fate of Cockpit Country is a national issue of considerable importance with far-reaching consequences for Jamaica’s future sustainability.

Maroon and British burial site in Cockpit Country. (Photo: Ted Lee Ebanks)

Please see the press release, the text of the Open Letter and signatories below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kingston, Jamaica
29 October 2020

COCKPIT COUNTRY STAKEHOLDERS CALL FOR THOROUGH EIA CONSULTATION PROCESS FOR MINING PERMITS

In an open letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) signed by 15 civil groups and 71 individuals, the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) is expressing concern about the conduct of virtual public consultations during the COVID-19 period. The letter points out that many Jamaicans, particularly in rural areas, do not have ready access to the internet and are likely to be excluded from virtual meetings. The signatories are concerned to ensure that the requirements for meaningful public consultations are not watered down or avoided entirely.

The context is the imminent public consultation process as part of the conduct of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Noranda Special Mining Lease 173 in Trelawny and the border of St Ann, which the CCSG contends encroaches on Cockpit Country, although the area is outside of the designated Cockpit Country Protected Area, announced by the Prime Minister in 2017.

The Open Letter makes the following suggestions:

• The public consultation for SML 173 should be broadcast on national television, as was done for the Montego Bay Bypass Road, as well as on radio. Questions should come in via different means (Zoom, WhatsApp, social media, text, phone call, e-mail) and once they contain no profanity, be displayed on the TV screen as the meeting progresses.
• ALL questions should be answered either during the meeting, whether the questions are read on the air or not, and/or presented in an Addendum to the EIA within 30 days of the date of the public meeting.
• This approach could also be bolstered by in person meetings in local communities in small numbers.
• Comments from the public should also be facilitated with a dedicated e-mail and allow for input to be sent by post.

“Because of COVID restrictions on gatherings, we are calling for special efforts to reach the rural residents of the area covered by Special Mining Lease 173, especially farmers, so that they can be fully informed of the potential impacts of bauxite mining on the environment, their communities and livelihoods,” said Wendy Lee of the Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife in St Ann. “They, along with other stakeholders, must be given an opportunity to provide input which must be taken into account in the final decision.”

The letter also requests information on the mechanism by which public concerns guide decision-making.

Please see the text of the letter and all signatories below.

Contact:

Alvin Gallimore, journalist, St Ann resident Tel: 876-401-3066

Dr. Susan Koenig, Windsor Research Centre Tel: 876-997-3832

Wendy Lee, Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife Tel: 876-359-1505

Diana McCaulay, Board Chair, Jamaica Environment Trust Tel: 876-469-1315

This is Cockpit Country. (Photo: Wendy Lee)

Open Letter to Mr. Peter Knight, Chief Executive Officer, National Environment and Planning Agency

 October 27, 2020 

Mr. Peter Knight, Chief Executive Officer 

National Environment and Planning Agency 

10-11 Caledonia Avenue , Kingston 10 

Dear Mr. Knight, 

RE: Public consultations regarding bauxite mining during COVID-19 restrictions, specifically in relation to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for SML 173, proponent Noranda Jamaica Ltd. 

The below groups and individuals realize that options for in person public consultations are limited during the COVID-19 pandemic but are determined that the requirements for meaningful public consultations are not watered down or avoided entirely. Many Jamaicans, particularly in rural areas, are not able to participate in virtual meetings and are therefore excluded from such arrangements. 

We suggest that, at the very least, the public consultation for SML 173 should be broadcast on national television, as was done for the Montego Bay Bypass Road, as well as on radio. Questions should come in via different means (Zoom, WhatsApp, Social Media, text, phone call, e-mail) and once they contain no profanity, be displayed on the TV screen as the meeting progresses. ALL questions should be answered either during the meeting, whether the questions are read on the air or not, and/or presented in an Addendum to the EIA within 30 days of the date of the public meeting. This approach could also be bolstered by in person meetings in local communities in small numbers. 

Comments from the public should also be facilitated with a dedicated e-mail and allow for input to be sent by post. 

Our major concern is the mechanism by which public concerns guide decision-making, so we would like to hear from you in this regard

We are sure you understand the far reaching nature of the decisions we take now on large scale mining projects in the context of the climate emergency and the steadfast resistance of many to bauxite mining in this and other areas. 

Yours sincerely, 

Signed on behalf of the following agencies and individuals 

AGENCIES 

Archaeological Society of Jamaica 

Birdlife Jamaica 

BirdsCaribbean 

Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation 

Caribbean Women’s Regional Network 

Caribbean Youth Environmental Network 

Countrystyle Community Tourism Network/Villages 

Jamaican Caves Organisation 

Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust 

Jamaica Environment Trust 

Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals 

Natural History Society of Jamaica 

Queen’s Highway Citizens Association Ltd 

Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife 

Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency 

The Cockpit Country Warriors 

Windsor Research Centre 

INDIVIDUALS
Elizabeth Andrew 
Ivanie Godfrey Christine O’Sullivan 
Zachary J. M. Beier Lisa Gordon Jan Pauel 
Jacqueline Binns Doris C. Gross Julia Porter 
Rhema Kerr Bjorkland Deborah Harris Denice O. Ramharrack 
Jean Bramwell Louise Henriques Dr. Angela Ramsay 
Audrey Brown Anthony Holmes Andrea Richards 
Nicole Brown Audrey Holmes Caroline Richards 
Rev. Kirk Brown Trevor Hope Cdr. Michael Rodriguez 
Rev. Garfield Campbell Anne Hopwood Veronica Salter 
Dr. Gail Codrington Lyndon Johnson Christopher Scott-Brown 
Jane E. Cohen Jennifer Jones Robert Stephens 
Dr. Marceline Collins-Figueroa Frank E. Lawrence Wayne Sutherland 
Debbie Devonish Wendy A. Lee Dr. Ann Sutton 
Hugh Dixon Horace Levy Samere Tansley 
Dr. Jane Dodman Emma Lewis Prof. Elizabeth Thomas-Hope 
Rev. Roy Dodman Lisa Lindo Ulla Wykoff Tomlinson 
Leo Douglas Ruth Loewe Vaughan Turland 
Peter Espeut Elke Macdonald Linette Vassell 
Laura Facey Shirley Mais Adrian Watson 
Dr. Esther Figueroa Stephanie Martin Judith Wedderburn 
Bernadette Frankson Diana McIntyre-Pike Dawn Williams 
Earl Gibson Canon Garth Minott Barbara Zampelli 
Margaret Gibson Carol Narcisse Jeanette Calder 
Joyce Glasgow Hilary Nicholson 
Many rivers have their sources in Cockpit Country. This is the Martha Brae River in Trelawny after the rains. (My photo)

3 thoughts on “Cockpit Country Stakeholders Call for Thorough EIA Consultation Process for Mining Permits

  1. The Cockpit Country must be protected by all cause.
    Most of the original rest of Jamaica have and we have lost important species with it.
    Therefore we must get up stand up for the rights of nature because it can’t defend itself.

    Like

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