JET welcomes move to legally protect Cockpit Country but...
A file photo of the the Cockpit Country. Cabinet on Wednesdayapproved specific policy directives to declare the boundaries ofthe Cockpit Country Protected Area, as well as the environmentalpermits related to Special Mining Lease 173 to be issued toNoranda Bauxite Partners.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), Dr Theresa Rodriques Moodie has welcomed indications that some legal protection is coming for the cockpit country protected area (CCPA), but said the Trust wants all the clawback areas which have not been included in SML 173, included in the CCPA, not just the forest reserves.

Information Minister Robert Morgan announced on Wednesday that Cabinet approved specific policy directives to declare the boundaries of the CCPA, as well as the environmental permits related to SML 173 to be issued to Noranda Bauxite Partners.

“Now we are finally seeing the process — at least it is my understanding that it is going to be legally protected — but the area is still much smaller than what has been proposed, not only by the CCSG (Cockpit Country Stakeholder Groups), but also by that study that the Government commissioned in 2013,” Dr Rodriques Moodie said.

She pointed to the reduction in the original 8,335 hectares to the 1,324 hectares that are now permitted under Noranda’s mining lease.

Ideally Dr Rodriques Moodie stressed, JET would prefer that no mining takes place in the area, as notwithstanding size, SML 173 falls within the CCSG.

“Despite the fact that it is not considered within what the Government has proposed as the CCPA, we maintain that it has features that are similar to other areas in the Cockpit Country,” she said.

She noted also that some of the conditions in at least one of the permits granted to Noranda appear to be new, such as a grievance framework, but that JET is concerned, as it always is, about monitoring and enforcement.

“We have started to go through the conditions. What we are concerned about is the monitoring and enforcement that come along with this. I am hoping that we will see better monitoring and enforcement, but we have examples from the past where this has always been a challenge,” she said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners II (NJBPII) said it wanted to correct misinformation placed in the public domain and again clarify that NJBPII is not in possession of, nor will not seek any exploration or mining licences, leases, or permits in the CCPA.

“The permitted area received from NEPA is exclusively in St Ann and is not close to any Maroon community or protected land. It is sad, disingenuous, and irresponsible that certain people have irresponsibly said that mining, even this smallest fourth iteration of SML-173, will lead to a loss of livelihoods in St Ann. This compromise preserves jobs,” the Discovery Bay-based mining outfit insisted.

Noranda said it is prepared to move forward mining within the small, concentrated area now permitted within SML-173 and not appeal the permit decision, respecting the NEPA process, and that the significant further reduction of mining lands permitted by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) under the reduced SML-173 “is a meaningful conservatory step”, which it accepts as an intended good act of conservation, “even if detrimental to the future business longevity of Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners II in Jamaica”.

The company said it is important to note that the land permitted for minding under SML-173 is currently in its third, and smallest form.

“Of this permitted area, we will only be operating in approximately 254 hectares for the development of roads and related bauxite mining, and none of this is in the CCPA or near Maroon communities,” the company pointed out.

Noranda said it will be actively participate in constructive dialogue for compromise and fair outcomes.

“We have done this over recent weeks in reaching out to a number of parties interested in the issues at hand. Some have been very professional and helpful, some unhelpful,” the company said.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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