PNP's Waite continues pressure on Noranda

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamiacaobserer.com

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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DEPUTY general secretary of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) Basil Waite has alleged that Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners is continuing to protect its interest at an environmental risk to the country, but workers have dismissed the anti-Cockpit Country mining narrative as “lies and misinformation”.

Noranda's attorneys had written to Waite demanding an apology for statements he made on social media several weeks ago, that the company should be embarrassed in the international media.

The apology was not offered but the company decided against pursuing the matter any further as, according to Director of strategic projects for Noranda David Wong Ken, “Noranda having noticed Mr Waite's language having been modified, for its own reasons, has decided not to pursue Mr Waite”.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer in downtown Kingston, a short distance away from Gordon House, where a group of chanting anti-mining protesters had gathered on one side of Duke Street, and Noranda workers and other interests on the other, Waite said, “Obviously they have a lot at stake based on what is their interest, so they're protecting their interest, which is a narrow interest and we are protecting a national interest. We are protecting an interest that will go beyond the next 30 years.”

Tensions have mounted over the past several weeks over the special mining licence (SML), which the Government granted to Noranda.

The company is still awaiting the report of the environmental impact assessment and the gazetting of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA), but that has not stopped objections from environmental lobby groups and others.

Waite, meanwhile, stressed that mining authorities have already predicted that Jamaica will run out of bauxite in another 30 to 35 years.

“Now if we go and mine in the Cockpit Country and destroy all the potential for the pharmaceutical industry, for ecotourism, the aquifers, and also the heritage sites and the flora and fauna that currently exists it cannot be regained because once you've mined, that's it. Why be so short-sighted?” he said.

The protesters included a wide cross section of interest groups, churches, prominent persons in the local entertainment industry, the Facebook discussion group 'Cockpit Country Warriors', and environmental groups, who went to register their concerns to the prime minister via a letter to Parliament.

“We have to protect Jamaica, we can't mine out everything,” Waite said.

But one of the workers, clad like several others in a Noranda-emblazoned T-shirt, who was seen amongst a group gathered around Waite in heated discussion, was adamant that the issue was infused with untruths put forward by anti-mining interests.

The man who said he worked with the company, insisted that if Noranda closed its doors his family and others would be severely affected.

“If you take away Noranda the Jamaican economy is going to be affected big time. If it's shut down, it's going to be like a ghost town, [as] Noranda impacts many parishes — even Kingston. Many contractors come in from Kingston to work. One of the lies I've heard is that we are planning to mine in Stewart Town; nothing like that. If you look at the mining plan where the bauxite reserve is you would be surprised. There are a lot of lies and the Jamaican populace is being filled with these lies.

“Everybody is saying that Noranda is mining in the Cockpit Country when JET (Jamaica Environment Trust), NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) and forestry (department) sat down and marked a boundary. The contentious issue is SML 173, and that is not within the Cockpit Country, that is not true,” argued the Noranda worker.

Another worker said the arguments were not backed by facts.

Flyers distributed by some of the protesting workers, read: “Our communities depend on Noranda”; “My family depends on Noranda”; “We are not mining in the Cockpit Country Protected Area”; “We are not mining in Maroon towns; “Only 15 per cent of SML 173 will be mined; and “We are a Jamaican company”.

The Government has maintained that Noranda Bauxite Partners II (Noranda) is not involved in any mining activities in the area to be protected as the Cockpit Country. The mining ministry says Noranda's bauxite mining activities are confined to two areas (SML 172 and SML 165), which are not part of the area to be protected as the Cockpit Country.


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