Noranda reassures Cockpit Country stakeholders
In a heated moment during the public meeting at Ulster Spring Baptist Church, Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency official Tamara Lee prevents visitor Dane Lynch from speaking, and instead pushes a point of her own.

ULSTER SPRING, Trelawny — Stakeholders in the Cockpit Country have been reminded that Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners will not consider mining bauxite in the protected area.

“Let me just say as well that there is a Cockpit Country designated protected area or CCPA, which was tabled in the House of Parliament by the Most Honourable Andrew Holness in 2017. Absolutely no mining of bauxite will take place in that core Cockpit area,” reassured Dr Conrad Douglas, executive chairman and principal of management consulting firm Conrad Douglas and Associates Limited.

“And, in addition to that, there will be no cutting of trees for yam sticks in that area and, furthermore, the prime minister's statement said there should be no cutting of trees for the burning of charcoal in that area and other such things,” Douglas said.

He was responding to Ulster Spring resident Albert Foster, who charged that the residents in the Cockpit Country have the right to know the debilitating effects that mining in the area will have on their future.

“Since we are the people of the Cockpit Country, do we have a right that we can choose whether mining take place, yes or no, as we are the people that it will have a negative impact on us for generations to come?” Foster asked.

He was a part of the stakeholder group at the Ulster Spring Baptist Church in Trelawny at the second mandatory “mixed virtual” public meeting of the final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, Modified SML 173 Boundaries or “Clawed Back Area”, last week.

Douglas further told the stakeholders that the consultation meetings were in fact convened to address the concerns of the various stakeholders.

“Your question is one that should be raised from time to time. This is why we have these stakeholder consultations, that is why we had four voluntary stakeholder consultations, and we also had several focus group consultation in which we came and met and spoke with special stakeholders such as Mr [Hugh] Dixon, such as JET [Jamaica Environment Trust], and several others throughout the entire process. What we said at the very outset, and I want to stress this, is that the input you put in the process are invaluable, they are important. This is universal best practice and must be taken into account. And this is what we have been doing through the entire process. We are not ignoring you or sidestepping anything that you have said,” Dr Douglas argued.

He added that there has been a modification to the SML 173, which is the subject of the meeting.

“And the reason for this second mandatory meeting...because even with those things in consideration the area has been reduced. SML 173 are clawed by 25 per cent or more than some 2,000 hectares which contains bauxite resources which is of very important resource, but it will be left unmined in consideration of the need of conservation as we progress,” he said. “And the 75 per cent that remains, of that only 18 per cent will be disturbed for mining.”

Meanwhile, chairman of the South Trelawny Environmental Agency Hugh Dixon argued that the EIA should not be passed by National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and suggested that, if it does, “it would be a twisting of the arm”.

In fact, Dixon claimed that “this particular iteration” of the EIA has left out maps of water resources.

“Let me go to Basil Fernandez. Basil, as a retired person you may not recognise, through reading the EIA, that this particular iteration of it has left out maps of water resources and guides that show where the water going to Dornoch [near Rio Bueno at the border of St Ann and Trelawny] head comes from. And, I want to refer him to that and ask Conroy [Douglas] why was it left off of this iteration and put fault lines in place of that map which shows waterflows,” Dixon questioned. Fernandez is former managing director of the Water Resources Authority (WRA).

Douglas countered that water resources have been placed on the map as requested by the Water Resources Authority.

“I don't know which map you are looking at but this was requested and this was in fact been done,” Douglas responded.

The former WRA head concurred.

“In fact, there is a separate report that sets out all of this right now and we are aware of where the water comes from. There is a direct linkage between Cave River and other rivers, Lowe River and such in terms of the Rio Bueno,” Fernandez said.

“One thing is clear is that we don't know the passage it takes but there is a link between both, whether it goes a circuitous route or moves directly, you don't know because the conduits that take the water underground are not straight and continuous and we don't know the path. We don't know whether it goes to the west to the left, to the right, or to the centre; we don't know. We know there is a link between both and that link has been established from the 1970s and reconfirmed by the WRA in the work that they did in 2020 or 2019,” Fernandez added.

Chairman of the South Trelawny Environmental Agency, Hugh Dixon.
Cockpit Country stakeholders in attendance at Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners stakeholders consultation meeting held at the Ulster Spring Baptist Church last week.
BY HORACE HINES Staff reporter editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

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