Cockpit country vs bauxite mining

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, September 13, 2019

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I hold briefs for Jamaica, none else, but bauxite is a mature industry with things set for decades; yet the discourse regarding Cockpit Country has been so toxic that covert agendas may be at work.

On August 6, 2019 Prime Minister Andrew Holness fired a benign salvo at Denbigh: “Cockpit Country is an environmental, cultural and historic asset….and we are moving to ensure it is protected.” Great affirmation!

Then came the headline 'Philips wants review of Cockpit Country boundaries' ( Jamaica Observer, August 12). Great check and balance!

Then followed a farrago of scurrilous innuendo by people accountable for nothing, and to no one 'There can be no mining in Cockpit Country' ( Jamaica Observer, August 13, 2019) or 'We are ready to fight' ( Jamaica Observer, July 24, 2019), and my heart fell with shame for our 70-year industry and Jamaica.

Then a coven of sudden environmentalists. Entertainers who inflict language and visual pollution on society did not hear owing to the night noises they created and sought clarity ( Jamaica Observer, August 29, 2019). Holness met with Bounty Killer, Queen Ifrica, Tony Rebel and vowed “to protect Cockpit Country”. Bounty Killer opined: “Jamaicans need to speak up about the real issues.” ( Jamaica Observer, September 2, 2019) Sir, welcome to our world!

Noranda then said: “We are not mining in Cockpit Country Protected Area,” but rumours of bulldozers in Accompong killed truth dead! ( Jamaica Observer, September 2, 2019). So the unhelpful 'Bauxite mining puts St Ann villages in a spin' ( Jamaica Observer, September 8) caught a breeze. The firm leases land, mines by our leave, but some are inconvenienced and complain. We all know mining is dust and hardship; or why would we get compensation? Duh! Citizens can hire a lawyer, get a stop order, or block mining roads — So dweet den, nuh?

Cockpit Country is a loose term for prized bush spanning five parishes. The Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) is smaller with unique landforms, aquifers, fauna, and flora, but no layman can say this snail or shrub is unique; it's science, stupid!

Cockpit Country was not created by God and was originally flat, not pitted. It was valued by pre-Tainos, but parts sunk; some raised up by weathering — what the British called cockpits as they looked like cock-fighting arenas, big sport! Cockpits are virtuous now just as the flat land was to first nations. How the world turns!

In time CCPA land will collapse and vast sunken lagoons will make Queen of Spain and Cave Valley look like 'bwoy'! Nature is restless and implacable! In 2009 The University of the West Indies scientists defined CCPA, with more work in 2013 and 2017. They studied markers of Maroons, forestry reserve, old British army campsites and modern interest groups. Forestry is the smallest area, Maroons, next, then army sites but activists who have no stake claim the most area; how come?

What of bauxite? Bauxite was a happy accident! Sir Alfred daCosta, a farmer at Phoenix Estate near Moneague in the late 1930s, sent soil samples to be tested as his crops were 'poorly'. He told Britain of the bauxitic ore. They told Canada (Alcan). And the rest is history. Check the monument near Chalky Hill. The ore was there; the white man found it. We did not know its value; did not mine, process or use it, so he did (Reynolds, Kaiser, Rusal, Jiquan, etc) — the story of Jamaica! After 70 years, no sculpted, iconic aluminium creations; no aluminium kitchens, toilets, houses; yet we were the world's largest producer in the 50s. So, don't cry for me, Argentina!

There is something wrong with us. Some don't like democratic socialist welfare and social justice for all built in Britain, France, Germany; yet money-grubbing capitalists and communist China and Russia, who treat their people horribly, run our bauxite mining. People don't care, Cabinets don't care, trade unions don't care. It's the money, stupid!

So the vitriol is hypocritical, self-serving, paid, or is it virginal? Check these:

■ Are boundaries an issue? Of the five options, the scientific one was chosen. Do Maroons, foresters, activists disagree? Give evidence! Why quarrel?

■ Are breaches of contract an issue? Show us; enforce law; lock them up!

■ Is environment an issue? From the 60s we have mitigation, compensation or force majeure!

■ Has one trade union said, it's not worth the jobs, lock down the mine? No! Have people acted; mass vandalism of company to chase firms away? No!

■ Is compensation an issue? Go to court! Why quarrel?

■ Is the CCPA being mined? We own the land, so boot the firm and live happily ever after?

Most Jamaicans have a problem of straight and crooked thinking and confuse what we like with what is good for us. Many shout out and pretend to hate things to get a pay-off, but will never say end the contract because it is their feeding tree! Anancy lives! We need quality education for all to develop values and thinking skills so we are governable. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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