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Time to take stock

Phillips wants balanced approach in Cockpit Country mining issue

Monday, September 16, 2019

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DR Peter Phillips, leader of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), says the time has come for Jamaica to take stock of the costs and benefits of bauxite and aluminium mining, as too many communities that were once thriving agricultural areas have been lost with no recourse.

“We have to decide if what we are getting [from bauxite mining] is enough to balance off against the investment in our future as a developing country,” Dr Phillips is quoted as saying in a release from the party.

“Over time, we have seen many communities that used to be thriving agricultural communities in south Manchester and elsewhere, that used to produce — earning to provide for families, sending children to school and university — and everything just simply disappear,” Dr Phillips reportedly told a group of bauxite workers who expressed concern for their jobs if the mining activities were to be discontinued.

The PNP president, who was accompanied by shadow minister on land and the environment, Senator Sophia Fraser Binns, other PNP stalwarts, and local environmentalists, toured the Cockpit Country and surrounding communities on Friday.

According to the release, he said Jamaica has gone through many phases of bauxite mining and, given the experiences from the 1940s until now, the nation cannot continue to make the same errors and receive less from the mining activities, in spite of the greater demands from people for increased social services.

“Remember when Michael Manley launched the big battle to get the bauxite levy in the 1970s, so that Jamaica could earn something from these companies to take care of some of our needs? It was a real fight, but he won and the companies were obligated to pay. Right now, not one of these companies is paying bauxite levy,” Dr Phillips told the group.

“We have seen many companies come, make millions of dollars as chump change, companies that were here originally like Alcan, Kaiser, Reynolds, are no longer in existence. The world market is organised differently now,” he said. “We need a balanced approach to see how best we will protect our future so that jobs are not lost.

“Managing the future could mean keeping the current arrangement for a while as we work to phase it out, train a new generation to deal with it as we also develop new industries,” the PNP president said.

The tour of the Cockpit Country included parts of Brown's Town and Gibraltar in St Ann, and sections of Trelawny.

According to the PNP release, residents and agricultural workers embraced Phillips, declaring him an ally in their effort to preserve the Cockpit Country.


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