Noranda workers counter criticisms of bauxite mining rightsTuesday, September 17, 2019
By Balford Henry
Factions on either side of the disputed issue of bauxite mining close to the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) could face off outside Gordon House in Kingston today when Parliament sits, the Jamaica Observer has learnt.
Word of the possible protests was passed to the newspaper yesterday after more than 200 employees and community leaders from the Cockpit Country area travelled to the headquarters of Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), on Constant Spring Road, to counter what they said was a campaign against Noranda Bauxite Company's mining operations just outside the protected area.
Spokespersons for the demonstrators, who packed into six 30-seat Toyota Coaster buses and a single 60-seater to make the trip to Kingston, said that they went to JET because they wanted the environmental watchdog to hear the facts.
They accused JET and other activist groups of spreading “propaganda and false news” by demanding that there be no bauxite mining in or around the protected area.
“The environmentalist groups, the artistes and sections of the media are trying to lock us down,” said Alfred Henry, a mining superintendent at Noranda Bauxite.
“This industry is very critical and we cannot use politics and downplay the situation so that the investors move out,” he stated.
Although Special Mining Lease (SML) 173 is outside the CCPA, the environmentalists believe that it is encroaching too close to the CCPA.
JET's Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Stanley had stated in May that it appeared that little progress had been made towards protecting the Cockpit Country under Jamaican law.
“Meanwhile, bauxite mining is moving ever closer to the protected area boundary and threatening the welfare and livelihoods of surrounding communities,” she claimed then.
Yesterday, Stanley said that although the protesters indicated that they were against the issues being raised about Noranda's bauxite mining activities, she was not sure why they staged a demonstration instead of seeking a meeting with JET. However, she said that her staff did not feel threatened by the activity.
Asked whether he felt that the concerns of the environmentalists are real, Henry responded: “Fake news. We are not mining in the Cockpit Country Protected Area and we are not disturbing the turbidity at Dunn's River Falls.”
He said that they chose the JET premises to demonstrate because they wanted to make it clear that Noranda is not mining in the CCPA and has no intention of moving inside the boundaries. However, he admitted that the mining permit to Noranda would have to await a final decision to be taken by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and the Town and Country Planning Authority by December.
The demonstrators included mainly employees of Noranda, mostly from the company's plant and shipping facility in Discovery Bay, the property offices in Brown's Town and Alexandria and the mining complex at Water Valley in the Dry Harbour Mountains of St Ann.
They carried a large number of placards, some of which read: “Noranda has not applied to mine in the Cockpit Country Protected Area”; “The Protected Area is almost 10 percent of Jamaica”; “The Mining Area (SML 173) is Outside the Cockpit Country Protected Area”; “There is no Maroon Community Inside the Mining Area”; “Noranda is the Owner of 50 percent of the Land in the Mining Area”; “Noranda's Land Rehabilitation Projects Increase Food Supply and Quality”; “Noranda Does Not use Any Hazardous Chemicals”; “Bauxite Mining by Noranda Has Never Affected Any Water Supply or River”; and, “The River Sources in the Cockpit Country Are Within the Protected Area, Not the Mining Area”.
A small number of police stood by during the demonstration, but there was no incident. The demonstrators left the premises after approximately 90 minutes.
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