Green light for bauxite mining in Cockpit Country
In spite of potential long-term deforestation, bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country is likely to offer a game-changing fillip to the Jamaican economy, at least in the short term, if the Government allows Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners II (NJBP II) to mine 8,335 hectares of land, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) has said.
Noranda’s plan to mine an area identified as Special Mining Lease (SML) 173 has been dogged by controversy, with environmentalists and farmers wary of potential devastation to the ecologically sensitive area.
“This is a major contribution to maintaining NJBP II’s operations and a critically important contribution to Jamaica’s economy overall, and more specifically, foreign exchange earnings, GDP growth, and employment,” the EIA, prepared by Conrad Douglas & Associates, reads.
The review acknowledged that the Jamaican economy was at a very sensitive juncture and could be subject to exogenous and endogenous shocks.
The volume of bauxite exports from the initiative is expected to rake in excess of US$150 million (J$20.25 billion) per year in profit, the assessors said of the undertaking by Noranda, of which the Government of Jamaica has a 51 per cent stake. New Day Aluminum (Jamaica) Limited has the minority 49 per cent interest.
But environmental stakeholders are likely to insist that the EIA’s acknowledgement of dislocation of some households, disturbance of archaeological heritage sites, and deforestation as sufficient reasons why mining should not proceed in SML 173.
Bauxite mining is also likely to result in an increase in the water run-off rate, erosion, and sedimentation of the natural drainage system and the potential of flooding. There may also be damage to sinkholes and caves and a reduction of water quality linked to dust generated during the trucking of the ore.
Noise pollution, wildlife migration, and potential loss of biodiversity in the immediate area and disruption of established ecosystems were also cited as mitigating factors.
The EIA stressed the fact that mining would not take place within the boundaries of the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA), noting that the Government had given up valuable bauxite resources located within the proposed CCPA in order to protect prized renewable resources.
“The value of the bauxite that has been given up (sequestered) by the GOJ has been estimated to range from approximately US$1.44 billion to US$1.85 billion,” was how Conrad Douglas & Associates justified the granting of a permit.
Jamaica’s immediate to medium-term social, economic, and sustainable development future is highly dependent on providing NJBP II with the permits to mine these bauxite resources, the EIA concluded.
“There are no other feasible immediate or short-term economic alternatives that have been identified that can be considered as a substitute to bring equal or greater macro- and microeconomic benefits to Jamaica at this time,” the report added.