CCSG calls for thorough EIA consultation process for mining permits

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CCSG calls for thorough EIA consultation process for mining permits

Thursday, October 29, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) is expressing concern about the conduct of virtual public consultations during the COVID-19 period as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Noranda Special Mining Lease 173 in Trelawny and the border of St Ann.

The CCSG currently contends that mining lease encroaches on Cockpit Country, although the area is outside of the designated Cockpit Country Protected Area, announced by the Prime Minister in 2017.

Calls for special efforts to be made to reach rural residents were made on Tuesday 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.

“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," Lee added.

The letter pointed 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 want to ensure that the requirements for meaningful public consultations are not watered down or avoided entirely.

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

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

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