JET urges PM to withdraw decision to permit mining in Bengal

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JET urges PM to withdraw decision to permit mining in Bengal

Monday, November 09, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to reverse a decision to allow quarrying and mining to go ahead in Bengal, St Ann near Rio Bueno.

JET said Minister without portfolio Leslie Campbell has moved to overturn the denial of an environmental permit by the environmental technical agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for quarrying in the vital natural resource on Jamaica's north coast.

The organisation said the Government's decision to uphold of the developer's appeal comes despite solid and substantiated reasons given to deny the permit.

It noted that the reasons given by NRCA/NEPA were:

The proposed development is contrary and not in keeping with the provisions of the St Ann Confirmed Development Order, 2000;

The area is not a designated quarry zone;

A quarry of this nature, size, scale and intensity will have a deleterious effect on the environment in general and the surrounding uses including impact and loss of biodiversity and natural resources, and impact on underground hydrology;

The development will exacerbate the air quality impacts on the air shed. Also, the development may have a deleterious impact on public health particularly from dust and noise generation;

The unprecedented number of objections from residents and stakeholders; and

The comments from key partner, the Forestry Department, that while the environmental impact assessment “explores the impact of the quarrying operations, it does not propose feasible and effective mitigation measures geared towards minimising the overall negative impact of the quarry on the forested areas”.

The organisation said it has long raised concerns about the provision in the NRCA Act and many laws that allows for a minister to overturn the decisions of a technical agency.

It said it also understands that there is now lack of clarity as to who the environmental minister is, as despite there being a new ministry including “environment and climate change” in the title, led by Pearnel Charles Jr, NEPA remains at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, whose minister is the Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.

The organisation said it further understands environmental functions are spread across the two ministries, which will no doubt lead to even greater regulatory incoherence.

“I have seen the environmental ministry move many times from place to place since the passing of the NRCA Act in 1991, to the point where it has been labelled the 'pilgrim' ministry,” JET Director, Diana McCaulay said.

“This refusal to place priority on environmental protection over almost 30 years by both administrations speaks volumes about their sincerity and real intentions. Given the reality of the climate crisis, which Jamaica is already facing, we cannot continue with these short-sighted approaches,” she added.

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