KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is calling on the Government to honour its commitments not to mine Cockpit Country after reports emerged of a mining licence being considered for the area.
In a release on Tuesday, JET said it was “dismayed that after the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2017 of a boundary for the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and his promise to close the area mining, the Mines and Geology Division (MGD) has now announced a new Special Exclusive Licence which, at several points, fall within the boundary of the CPPA and includes land belonging to the Accompong Maroons.”
According to JET, when Holness made the announcement on November 21, 2017, he “explicitly” said that bauxite mining “would not be allowed within the CCPA boundary”.
JET said Holness also stated that if any existing Special Mining Leases (SMLs) and Special Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (SEPLs) fell within the CCPA boundary, they would need to be modified.
“On September 29, a notice from the Mines and Geology Division (MGD) in the newspaper indicated that JISCO ALPART JAMAICA of Old Spur Tree Road, Spur Tree PO, Manchester applied for a licence to prospect for bauxite mining under SEPL 643,” the statement said, adding that the notice did not include a sketch plan of the area but did include coordinates.
Based on the coordinates and description, JET said Dr Susan Koenig of Windsor Research Centre (WRC) was able to map the proposed licence area.
“It showed that SEPL 643 not only covered the majority of the Appleton Valley area, but encroached on the CCPA boundary several times,” JET noted.
For her part, Dr Koenig said, “If this notice proves to be correct, then WRC considers that to be an egregious abuse of the public’s trust that GoJ (Government of Jamaica) promised to close [the] Cockpit Country to bauxite mining.”
She continued, “We also believe this to be a retraction of the Government’s ‘Duty of Care’ to protect Jamaicans from environmental harm.”
JET’s CEO, Dr Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, described the notice by the MGD as being “some kind of mistake”.
“I cannot imagine that following the prime minister’s announcement the MGD would even consider granting a license in the CCPA, especially knowing that the lease area includes Maroon lands,” she stated.
“We cannot continue to be so careless in how we manage this important area. We have seen and heard of so many examples of communities being devastated and livelihoods lost by this industry. Our leaders cannot continue to speak when they are abroad of caring for our environment and people while allowing such destruction at home,” she charged.
Holness and several other government ministers are now at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
The prime minister has, among other things, told world leaders that the climate crisis needed the same urgent response as COVID-19.
In the meantime, JET says it intends to continue its efforts in raising awareness about the issues surrounding the costs of bauxite mining.
“… We ask the Government to honour its commitment to not mine [the] Cockpit Country and to include a buffer zone as proposed in the 2013 study by Webber and Noel of the University of the West Indies,” advised JET.