Thu | Jul 18, 2019

Longer-term licences being issued to aid mining development

Published:Friday | January 11, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Equipment being used to mine limestone in St. Ann

Longer-term licences, along with institutional and capacity development, are part of a range of measures being instituted by the Government with the aim of increasing productivity and the viability of the development of the minerals industry, according to minister with responsibility for mining, Robert Montague.

He says the government has already moved to increase the length of time attached to mining licences, noting that the long-held policy of offering only one-year licences for quarry operations has proven to be a disincentive to meaningful development of the industry.

Quarry licences are now available for up to 10 years. Montague says that in light of the massive investment required for mining operations the continuation of the policy of issuing one-year licences was untenable.

"The reason for it is that mining operations is capital-intensive, and when you give a person a one-year licence and you ask them to take that to the bank, it's a joke. The bank is going to say, I have a loan and the minimum that I will give you is three years, but you only have a license to operate for one year," said Montague while addressing the final conference of the African Caribbean and Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Development Minerals Programme at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday.

At the same time, he cautioned that in-river mining is the exception to the rule, given the potential for environmental damage. Licences for mining riverbeds will remain at one year.

The $104-million ACP-EU development minerals pro-gramme in Jamaica is comprised of financial and technical assistance, which include training, the production of maps and databases, development of regulations on the environment, health and safety, organisation of community dialogues, technology fairs and networking events, according to the minister. He said the programme has helped Jamaica to lay the critical groundwork for the development of the minerals industry.

"This will enable us to move forward in increasing productivity in the development of the minerals industry, better manage the quarrying operations that comprise the industry, adhere to national and international health standards, and prevent conflicts through effective community co-operation," Montague said.

Noting the 1.8 per cent growth in gross domestic product during the quarter to September 2018, he said the statistical reports indicate that over 50 per cent of that growth was from the mining industry. He said that training programmes for persons working in the industry have been rolled out and that the time has come to institute greater levels of professionalism and expertise in the development of the industry.

"It is high time that we no longer see a mining operation as a simple marl pit or a marl hole, with persons wanting to do as they please. What we want to do is to make sure that there is formal training and certification so that when the quarries manager leaves Jamaica for the EU or ACP countries, they are certified and can manage operations on a wider scope," Montague said.

He said that the Government is moving to further improve efficiency and viability of the mining sector with the re-submission of a mining policy for Cabinet approval.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com