Cockpit Country Stakeholders reject “inadequate” EIA for bauxite mining permit

The issue of Cockpit Country has not disappeared. Many concerns remain. Stay tuned. This is from Jamaica Environment Trust (click on the link to the Final EIA mentioned below):

We, the undersigned members of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG), reject the Final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for SML 173, now available on the website of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). We are at a loss to understand how this substandard document could have been accepted by the state agency with responsibility for public health and the environment.

We understand that deliberations on the granting of an environmental permit to allow bauxite mining adjacent to the Cockpit Country Proposed Protected Area are imminent, so we do not have the luxury of conducting a line by line examination.  But the matter is of great importance as the area of SML 173 is within the boundary proposed by the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group and supported by the review done by the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2013.

We did review the many submissions made by a range of stakeholders to NEPA in 2020, including local residents, Jamaicans of all walks of life, academia, experts in karst topography, hydrogeology and biodiversity– and we found virtually no effort to address these serious deficiencies in the Corrigenda EIA Report, also on NEPA’s website, which appears to be the only response to the issues raised.

One of the most significant issues which remains unaddressed is the question of the risk posed by bauxite mining in the area delineated by Special Mining Lease (SML) 173 to underground water supplies in the watershed protection area of a major river, the Rio Bueno.  In the earlier version of the EIA, there was a map on Page 5-25 (Figure 5-15) showing the proven underground flows from Cave River Sink and The Volcano to the Dornoch Head rising, established by dye tracing studies. This critical map has been removed from the final version of the EIA – see Page 5-25 – and replaced with a map of fault lines with none of the proven underground flow lines included. We cannot understand why this was done.  

Is the public to assume therefore that since no other observable changes were made to the EIA apart from those listed in the Corrigenda EIA Report, that these are the only concerns that were submitted to the EIA Consultants? Or were these the only comments that NEPA found to be worthwhile? The document now on NEPA’s website headed “Final EIA” does not seem to mention the public consultations held in December 2020, or the outcry which followed. The Final EIA also mentions four Volumes but only Volume I has been posted.

The endangered Cockpit Country – a treasure house of biodiversity and precious water resources – still threatened by bauxite mining. (Photo: Ted Lee Eubanks)

We have also taken note of an advertisement in the weekend newspapers showing a map of an area referred to as the ‘clawed back’ area, which does not even remotely encompass the 6,000 hectares which the Minister of Transport and Mining, Hon. Robert Montague, was reported to have announced would be removed from the lease during a Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on May 26th 2021. More than one-half of this ‘clawed back’ area encompasses Forest Reserves, which, according to the earlier EIA, would not have been mined in any event. We seek a much clearer explanation of this ‘clawed back’ area before any decision is taken on the boundary of SML 173 and a new public consultation is required. We also note that the 2013 UWI report recommended that no mining should occur in this area of Cockpit Country.

Cockpit Country is the largest remaining natural forest in Jamaica, supplies about 40% of Jamaica’s fresh water needs and is home to many endemic plants and animals. It is also an important cultural and historical site for Jamaicans, particularly the Maroons, and is important for climate resilience. Bauxite mining in Cockpit Country would remove the deep soils for which forests and agricultural livelihoods depend, compromise air quality, harm the health and wellbeing of thousands of Jamaican citizens and risk important water resources.

“I am hoping there is some error with what has been posted as the Final EIA. We have tried to determine why the EIA remains largely the same considering that so many comments were submitted regarding its robustness, but we have not yet received an official response from NEPA,” said JET’s CEO, Dr. Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie. “SML 173 should never have been granted before the required environmental permit was considered, and an environmental permit should not be granted in the absence of a robust and scientifically sound EIA.” 

The Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group insist that the Final EIA now on NEPA’s website should be rejected for guiding any decision on an environmental permit for SML 173 and expect that no decision will be taken until the numerous concerns raised by stakeholders have been addressed and communicated to the public. We also anticipate that when the EIA has undergone major revisions, the public will be consulted again, especially to discuss the issues surrounding the ‘clawed back’ area.

Contact: Dr. Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, CEO, Jamaica Environment Trust

t| +1876 960 3693/ c| 876 852 8714

e| trmoodie.jet@gmail.com/ jamaicaenvironmenttrust@gmail.com 

Signed by:

Jennifer Jones

Laura Facey

Catherine Levy

Peter Espeut

Horace Levy

Dr. Susan Koenig, Windsor Research Centre

Wendy A. Lee, Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife

Diana McIntyre-Pike, Countrystyle Community Tourism Network (CCTN) /Villages as Businesses and IIPT Caribbean

Dr. Esther Figueroa

Freedom Imaginaries

Robert Stephens

Hugh Dixon, Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency

Joy Joan Grant Cummings, Caribbean Regional Network of Women and Women’s Organizations

Cdr Michael Rodriguez

Ann Sutton

Dornoch Head in Trelawny, Cockpit Country. (Photo: JET)


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