Tue | Nov 12, 2019

Stephen Facey | Don’t kill the golden goose

Published:Sunday | September 22, 2019 | 12:22 AM

The following is an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

We write to express the concern that Jamaica Conservation Partners (JCP) has regarding the potential issuance of an environmental permit for bauxite mining in the area covered by SML 173.

We would like to recognise the work of the government towards finalising a Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and your personal commitment to the environment of Jamaica and the challenges facing the world with respect to climate change. We think it is critical, however, given the imminent decisions that will impact the area of the Cockpit Country that is outside of the proposed CCPA, that we join the voices of many other environmental groups regarding our concerns related to bauxite mining in the area covered by SML 173.

As is clear from the maps that have been published and Dr Alan Fincham’s work in the Cockpit Country, there are important underground water flows that pass directly through SML 173 to the northeast emerging at Dornock Head Rising, the main source of the Rio Bueno. Our understanding of these and all other reports to date is that NO study has been undertaken with the level of sophisticated modelling necessary to adequately predict the long-term impacts of bauxite mining on karst water resources in the Cockpit Country.

These areas are at risk of becoming contaminated, and we would argue that even a small risk is too high. Jamaica is currently facing a significant water shortage, which is a global problem only set to get worse. We must question the wisdom behind any decision that could place this precious resource at risk.

With global warming well on its way and the continuing destruction of forests worldwide, the value of the Cockpit Country will increase at a rapid rate. It is an important carbon sink and source of water – both its generation and collection. Water will become the most precious commodity on the planet in the next few years; more precious than oil and aluminium. The mining of bauxite represents short-term monetary gain, and the land, once mined, has proven unsuitable for future farming or forests.

The protection and cultivation of our ‘wood and water’ represents a long-term, sustainable investment in Jamaica’s future. It is the resource that our children and grandchildren will be able to continue to benefit from and will only increase in value with time. There are ways to unlock the value of this asset through grants, carbon credits, and ecotourism. It will also increase the profile of Jamaica as an environmental destination like Costa Rica.

We implore the Government to act with vision to both increase the area of the planned CCPA and disallow mining in SML 173.

Several board members of JCP recently toured this area from Gibraltar to Dornock Head Rising. In Gibraltar, the ongoing mining in SML 172 is extremely close to Gibraltar All-Age School, which relies on roof-water catchment (as do other homes in the area), and so both water and general health are being impacted by the mining there.

We then travelled to Dornock, where we were distressed to see other potential surface impacts to Dornock Head Rising – the road to the river has been widened, and parties and ‘sessions’ are clearly being held there. While rivers are a special way to enjoy the beauty of Jamaica, trees and grasses on the roadside of the river have been cut down, campfires have been set up and abandoned, and there was a tremendous amount of both plastic and glass bottles, cups, etc, that had been left strewn along the riverbanks. We would strongly encourage the Government to protect this important site.

 

- Stephen Facey is chairman of Jamaica Conservation Partners. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.