Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Holness declares no mining will be permitted in Cockpit Country Protected Area

Published:Wednesday | November 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM

While lauding the Government for taking steps to declare that no mining will be permitted in the Cockpit country, Diana McCaulay, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), said that there are still concerns regarding some boundaries that were not included in Prime Minister Andrew Holness' announcement yesterday.

Holness made the declaration in Parliament, weeks after the deadline for his response to a successful petition against permitting mining in the Cockpit Country Protected Area.

McCaulay pointed specifically to the Nassau Mountains, noting that there would be serious issues if mining takes place there, as that's where the Black River rises.

"The prime minister said they were going to renegotiate existing licences and I think that is significant. They are prepared to say these areas where mining was considered in the past will not be considered in the future. His emphasis on the importance of the forest, the water supply, the cultural heritage and the people who live in the Cockpit Country, I believe was great," she said.

"The concern JET has was in the northeastern corner of the boundary that was shown. There is a part where I would describe as the Rio Bueno river system that is not included in the boundary. You have to understand that the hydrological resources of water in Cockpit Country flows underground, so even if there's an area where there is no surface water that is going to interrupt those underground flows, it could have [an] impact on the Rio Bueno (Trelawny). So that was disappointing."




The prime minister announced that the protected areas will include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features, and cultural and heritage sites. This area comprises approximately 74,726 hectares and will be referred to as the Cockpit Country Protected Area and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the attorney general.

"The goal of defining the boundary is to ensure forest conservation, protection of biodiversity, preservation and improvement of traditional livelihoods, and the creation of new economic opportunities from heritage, health and wellness tourism and ecotourism," Holness declared.

In this regard, he said the Mining Act and any existing mining licences will be amended to close these areas to mining.

"The Government is of the view that this area is too valuable in terms of its ecological and hydrological importance and uniqueness to allow mining, which may result in permanent and irreversible harm and deprive future generations of the benefit of this national asset. While we will forgo the extraction of millions of tonnes of high-grade bauxite and limestone with potential earnings of billions of United States dollars, we cannot put a price tag on the loss to our water resources and biodiversity," Holness explained.