Tue | Jul 14, 2020

Earth Today | Noranda open to dialogue with local communities

Published:Thursday | August 22, 2019 | 12:00 AM
A loaded train pulls into the bauxite plant at Discovery Bay. FILE

WHILE INSISTING that the area for which they have been given a licence to mine is outside the area to be officially demarcated as the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA), Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners has also noted their willingness to dialogue with community stakeholders on the subject.

“We know how discussion can solve problems. We would like to discuss the issue so that we can clarify our position to those who may not understand,” said Lance Neita, consultant for community and public relations with the company.

“Noranda welcomed, like everybody else, the declaration in 2017 that made the Cockpit Country an untouchable reserve; and Noranda, our 800 Jamaican employees and the people who benefit in terms of indirect work and so on, share the respect for the Cockpit Country heritage,” he added.

Community and environmental stakeholders have been up in arms over mining in the Cockpit Country since they were clued into the existence of special mining licence 173.

Neita insists that they need not be, since not only is the area outside of the CCPA, but also, it is not the entire area under the licence that is to be mined – if and when the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) gives the go-ahead.

“The area we are talking about is outside the Cockpit Country Protected Area and about 8,000 hectares; and only 15 per cent of that area is earmarked for mining,” he said, adding that it is also an area that is “largely unpopulated”.

On stakeholders’ desire for a buffer zone around the CCPA that is itself closed to mining, Neita said that was a matter for the Government to decide on.

“They are asking for a buffer. The Government would have to look into that; the Government has that responsibility. We operate as a partner with the Government. We operate under the law of the country. That kind of thing depends on the Government,” he told The Gleaner.

Meanwhile, Neita said it is important that the public recognise that bauxite companies need to mine; otherwise, they risk going out of business.

“Bauxite and alumina earnings continue to be a mainstay of the economy. Noranda is the sole bauxite exporter, pump about 80 million USD into the economy annually and provides jobs. We have been mining for 50 years and if we are not allowed to mine, you have to think in terms of your sustainability, the sustainability of your company,” he said.

“If you do not have bauxite to mine, you may as well close the company. If, God forbid, Alpart and Noranda were to be shuttered, think about the hole that would create. We have to look at the balance. You have to do some hard thinking about how those earnings would be replaced,” Neita added.

“We have to manage the industry as best we can and that means the people who are concerned; the Government who must be concerned about income and budget; and we who are concerned about investment,” he said further.