Phillips ready to advocate for more mining benefits for communities
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Opposition spokesman on Transport and Mining Mikael Phillips says he intends to advocate for residents of mining-affected communities to benefit from the bauxite/alumina industry.
Phillips, who was on Saturday announced as the People’s National Party’s (PNP’s) new spokesperson on mining, following a shuffle of the shadow cabinet by party President Mark Golding, told the Jamaica Observer that the benefits from the bauxite industry have dwindled.
“When you look at communities like Mandeville, Junction in St Elizabeth, Brown’s Town [St Ann] and areas like that thrived with bauxite being a main and integral part of the community itself, things and times have changed so the nexus between bauxite and community development, you can’t say that it is the same as it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. It is not the same now,” said Phillips.
He pointed to long-standing issues with land reclamation and titling as concerns.
“Mining is one that impacts quite a bit of our rural communities. The contribution to the growth of communities that the mining operations used to have is no longer the case now. I think there are issues even with the land reclamation, titling, that need to be addressed. Just how it is that the mining operation interacts with the communities and especially farmers and households. I am looking forward to a new era, new challenges and continuing my advocacy on behalf of the people who we represent,” added Phillips, who is the Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western.
He argued that there needs to be more expenditure from the bauxite levy for mined-out communities.
“Where the levy is concerned, you can see that the levy was put in place, so that communities can feel [help] coming from central Government, feel a part of the earnings or what has come out of bauxite. That is not what we are feeling right now,” he said.
“What communities get is three or four million dollars every three to four years [and that] is woefully inadequate, so we are basically taking, but we are putting back too little in those communities that are impacted by bauxite and that is where you are going to hear my voice the loudest on it.
“Communities are impacted, but so little goes back into those communities after the mining that is where we need to be. I can hear the voices of many that we have been in power and nothing has changed with that. I can’t speak of what happened in the past, but I can speak of what will happen in the future once given the opportunity to represent the people where bauxite is concerned,” added Phillips.