Noranda workers seek parliamentarians' support

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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HUNDREDS of Noranda Bauxite employees and members of community organisations demonstrated outside Gordon House on Tuesday, seeking support for the company's efforts to continue mining in Jamaica.

The workers insisted that the country is being misled by information disseminated by several entities, including environmental activists and some politicians, about the dangers of the company — which is 51 per cent owned by the Jamaican Government — continuing its bauxite mining operations in Jamaica.

Armed with dozens of placards, the workers, who had travelled to Kingston for the second consecutive day to air their position, expressed concerns about the future of their jobs, their families and their communities in the wake of objections being made by the Jamaica Environment Trust and other environmental activists, to the company's mining activities — although these activities are planned outside the designated Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA).

The employees and community members have also committed to using other mediums, such as social media, to show their support for the company's position that its mining activities do not infringe on the CCPA, and to spread awareness about the threat to the livelihood of approximately 4,000 people hired by the company.

The demonstrators noted that, following the designation of the CCPA in 2017, some of Noranda's mining operations were relocated to ensure that all their activities fall outside the CCPA, in line with the Government's zero-mining policy for that area.

They also noted that following that development, Noranda's special mining lease now covers a total of 8,335 hectares (Special Mining Licence 173) of unprotected land, of which only 15 per cent has been earmarked for mining. Despite this fact, however, Noranda has come under pressure from individuals and groups who continue to call for a reduction or cessation of the company's mining activities in Jamaica.

The Noranda employees say that they will not remain quiet in the face of what they say is the intentional spreading of false information.

“I have been watching the news and keeping up with what is being said about the issue and, from the standpoint of someone on the ground who knows the facts, I can safely say this is all propaganda and sensationalisation,” said Gawain Turner, a land surveyor at Noranda.

He added that many people do not appreciate the importance of Noranda to the families and communities that benefit from the employment that mining provides.

“Protecting the environment is very important and Noranda is aware of and supports this position, which is why we are not mining in the CCPA. The environmental groups are behaving as if they are not fully apprised of the facts, and that is a lie. They were a part of the consultations held with stakeholders, when the boundaries of the CCPA were being explored by the Government,” he added.

He also noted that all stakeholders, including the environmental groups, politicians, entertainers, and the private sector representatives, accepted the boundaries for the CCPA and were made aware of the areas that would be made available for mining outside the protected space.

“This propaganda has to stop,” he insisted.

His passionate position was shared by his fellow employees, who said that they are appealing to the public to reject the misinformation being spread, and also to be mindful of their economic well-being and how much benefit they and their families have received from being a part of the company.

While demonstrating outside Gordon House, they exchanged views with several Members of Parliament (MPs), including Juliet Holness, Ronald Thwaites and Alando Terrelonge, who wanted to hear their side of the issue.

Noranda has maintained its willingness to cooperate with any requests for further clarity on the matter, and noted that it is committed to continuing “open and frank” dialogue with local communities to clear up any misunderstandings.

“The company would also like to see the continuation of its long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaican people,” a Noranda release after the demonstration said.

Noranda Bauxite, located in St Ann, mines and ships bauxite for metallurgical and non-metallurgical applications globally. Noranda is a subsidiary of New Day Aluminum, an investment and management company that manages assets in metals, mining, refining, and speciality industries.

It is a private Jamaican company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Noranda Holding Company, whose assets are a concession from the Government of Jamaica to mine bauxite through to 2030.


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