Sun | Aug 25, 2019

No end in sight to Cockpit Country row

Published:Friday | June 7, 2019 | 12:21 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

WESTERN BUREAU:

Environmentalist Hugh Dixon believes that the Cockpit Country is much larger than the area the Government has designated as the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and asserts that some sections set aside for mining, under the Special Mining Lease Area 173 (SML173), should also have been included in the red zone.

Dixon, who is also wary about the pace at which the Forestry Department is carrying out a ‘ground truthing’ exercise, believes that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been badly advised about the true dimensions of the Cockpit Country and other related issues.

“This so-called CCPA boundary is being established in dire haste in the northeastern corridor of Cockpit Country so the Government of Jamaica can build a case to present to the nation that the Special Mining Lease 173 is outside the CCPA,” said Dixon in outlining his concern about the pace of the ‘truthing’ exercise.

In fact, Dixon, who heads the South Trelawny Environmental Agency, believes that the prime minister was disingenuous in a November 21, 2017, statement he made in Parliament about SML 173 – which is set to begin by September – “a plan to mine out the heart of the Cockpit Country,” said Dixon. “If this happens, his technocrats have misled him to make a disastrous decision in achieving prosperity for the nation.”

In his November 2017 statement, Holness stated:“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.”

BOUNDARY LINES

Amid the swirling controversy about what areas fall within the Cockpit Country, Noranda Bauxite Partners II is reportedly waiting in the wings to commence mining activities near the boundary of the disputed area. However, several stakeholders in south Trelawny, including Kenneth Grant, the president of the Trelawny Lay Magistrates’ Association, are adamant that they will resist any move to touch the areas they believe are within the boundary.

Following Wednesday’s tour of the Cockpit Country, Holness said that he was committed to looking at all compelling factors.

“As prime minister, I am elected to look at all the factors, and that includes the concerns of the people and the big picture. The concerns will be reviewed. However, all the agencies involved in the project have reported that there is no mining in the proposed area to be designated as Cockpit Country,” said Holness.

However, with the SML 173 deal on the table with Noranda, and south Trelawny a prominent stakeholder, it appears that no compromise is in sight.

“I would die to protect the Cockpit Country from miners,” declared Grant.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com