Tue | Oct 22, 2019

Esther Figueroa | Cockpit Country propaganda

Published:Wednesday | September 18, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Residents of communities located in the Cockpit Country protest proposed mining by the Noranda bauxite company. The protesters demonstrated in front of Gordon House, the country’s Parliament building, on Duke Street on September 17.
Esther Figueroa
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On September 16, Noranda Bauxite Jamaica Partners, a corporation owned by the Government of Jamaica and New Day, a foreign company, bused in more than 100 employees to ‘protest’ in front of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). Their protest was supposedly to counter misinformation about Noranda, SML 173, and their intentions to mine in Cockpit Country.

So let us examine some of the alternative facts on their placards:

1. “The river sources in the Cockpit Country are within the protected area, not the mining area.” Actually not so. Dornoch Head, one of the most beautiful places in Jamaica and the source of Rio Bueno, is in SML 173.

2. “There is no Maroon community inside the mining area.”

The Maroons would beg to disagree. They consider ALL of Cockpit Country Maroon nation, therefore, mining anywhere in Cockpit Country is considered desecration.

3. “Noranda has never impacted food supply from any community.”

Wow! No community that has ever been mined has ever had their food production curtailed? How is that possible when they can no longer plant food on their land? To have your land, once abundant with fruit trees and a wide variety of crops, bulldozed and dug up is a sure way for a community’s food supply to be “impacted”.

4. “Noranda’s land-rehabilitation projects increase food supply and quality.”

Wow again! You greatly decrease “food supply and quality” by destroying productive farmland, but your land rehabilitation, which when it exists, consists of a veneer of topsoil over rubble where only scrub can grow, increases food supply and quality? This illogic is mind-boggling.

5. “Bauxite mining by Noranda has never affected any water supply or river.”

Never is a very strong word. Those whose water tanks have been compromised by bauxite dust that has settled in the water would disagree with this statement.

6. “Noranda is the owner of 50 per cent of the land in the mining area.”

That’s because back in the day, Kaiser Bauxite bought up thousands of acres of land at very cheap prices. Those that did not sell then are being mined out now because Noranda does not have to buy anyone’s land to mine it. If your land is in one of their mining leases, they can go on your land and mine it whenever they want to, giving you just two weeks’ notice.

7. “Noranda has not applied to mine in the Cockpit Country Protected Area.”

No Cockpit Country stakeholder group, including JET, has accused Noranda of mining in the designated CCPA.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has delayed till December or January the public comment period for the environment impact assessment (EIA) for SML 173, (a mining lease granted to Noranda by Mines and Geology without an EIA). This delay conveniently gives Noranda several months to wage their many-pronged public-relations campaign, which includes attacks on the integrity of any person or group who opposes SML 173 and mining in the Cockpit Country.

Unless there are multiple and complex problems, it should not take long to correct or improve the EIA. Peter Knight, CEO of NEPA, needs to explain to the public the exact timeline for the extended EIA process. It is imperative that public consultations begin soon. The stakes are way too high to wait longer than necessary.

Esther Figueroa, PhD, is an activist independent filmmaker and lobbyist for the protection of the Cockpit Country. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mediavagabond@gmail.com.