Sat | Dec 5, 2020

EIA outlines severe environmental impact

Published:Monday | August 12, 2019 | 12:05 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer


An Environmental Impact Assessment for Jamaica World’s quarrying and mineral processing at Rio Bueno in the Dry Harbour Mountains in St Ann, near the Trelawny border, has outlined a myriad of ecologically destructive consequences.

Prepared by Kingston-based C.L. Environmental Company and Forrest and Associates, the findings show adverse effects to the area high in endemic species.

The Bengal area was inhabited by Jamaica’s first settlers, the Tainos, and is the area where Christopher Columbus first found drinking water on the island.

The area is of global historical significance.

According to Jamaica World, it had identified the Bengal site in Trelawny to develop its limestone processing operation, against the background of an “expanding tourism sector, with its accompanying need for worker accommodation and other amenities” which has “led to a significant increase in demand for construction aggregates in the north-western end of the island”. The EIA also outlined that the company also had plans for exporting aggregate overseas.

“Jamaica World has partnered with EPSA, a global contract mining company who has a balance sheet of over US $900m. It is anticipated that the project will create between 50 and 100 jobs and is estimated to contribute over JMD$635,755,176 of tax dollars to the Jamaican Government via the Quarry tax,” the EIA said.

The EIA outlined that the forest is a potential source of commodities such as oxygen, medicine, oils and resins among other things. It represents a genetic resource for rare and endemic species that are necessary for facilitating the adaptation of Jamaica’s coastal environment to effects of climate change.

“The woodland/dry limestone forest area contained the highest levels of endemism and thus biodiversity with bromeliads identified as an essential habitat for multiple species. Endemic flora also included orchids, which have a higher conservation status than some other endemic flora. Endemic faunal species include the macrofauna found in the bromeliads, seven species of amphibians, 18 species of reptiles.

It said 48 of the 58 bird species were found in woodland areas, as well as 16 of the 30 endemic birds of Jamaica, which were both endemic and forest-dependent. Nineteen species of reptiles were recorded, 18 of which are endemic to Jamaica, one of which, the Jamaican Boa, has been considered for special conservation status, Epicrates subflavus, the Jamaican Boa which is protected under Jamaican law.

“While the species is fairy widely distributed the species is vulnerable and any loss of population is therefore important,” the EIA noted.

It also noted that removal of vegetation will negatively affect the bird populations as it will result in reduction in available habitat.

... Most community members surveyed had no experience of previous quarry

One aspect of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) with which community members have taken issue is the community perception survey which was said to have been undertaken on February 17, in which 20 people were interviewed in an area spanning Golden Sunrise to Bengal Beach. According to the EIA, the respondents were employees of tourism enterprises who did not live in the area nor were aware of the previous quarry operation.

According to the EIA, “many were new owners as only five (25 per cent) were living in the area at the time of operation of the previous quarry.

Between 2001 and 2007, sections of Rio Bueno were mined by Argentine engineering and construction company Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles SA. Approximately two million tonnes of limestone from the site was used for the construction of the Queens Highway leg of the North Coast Highway.

The EIA also pointed out that there were serious occupational hazards for workers at the quarry who would be exposed to high noise and dust levels during site preparation activities and that the potential for accidents on any construction site is high given the use of heavy equipment and machinery.

In terms of air quality the scientists said there are no specific mass-based emission limits for quarry operations according to the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (Air Quality) Regulations, so “no direct comparison can be made with the emission rates for the proposed quarry operation at Bengal”.

It said rock blasting is expected to occur, resulting in fragments of rocks being propelled into the air by explosions on site which could create hazards if they are propelled into nearby residences resulting in harm or death.

“Fumes (toxic and non-toxic) are released into the atmosphere as a result of using explosives for blasting. Residences may be temporarily affected by dust and fumes within 100 metres. Deposited dust may affect local residents as cars, homes or any surface may have visible deposition,” the document stated.

A standalone archaeological impact assessment has not been presented by the developers