Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE MINISTER with responsibility for mining, Phillip Paulwell, says he will be making a significant announcement about the sector when the House of Representatives reopens for business today.
Paulwell, a guest at a special Gleaner forum last week, was, however, guarded about what area of mining his announcement would impact.
"It is one that I have been working quietly on for the last 12 months and wish to advise the country on. It is, I believe, a most significant development," Paulwell said.
He added: "I believe that we are going to see the makings of transformation and a new area that we never thought about."
Paulwell, meanwhile, categorically dismissed suggestions that he might be venturing into the Cockpit Country with mining activities. He, however, conceded that it was a development which the environmental lobby "might want to talk about".
Asked how damaging the mining activities might be on the environment, Paulwell said: "The most damaging aspect to the environment comes through poverty."
He added: "When people are poor, then the environment suffers. What we are trying to do is to create wealth and jobs, and that, for me, is paramount, while at the same time ensuring that we mitigate against the risk to the environment."
The minister said environmental watchers have not yet been informed about his plans, arguing that the Government was not yet in a position to invite them to the table.
"The role of NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) will be fully preserved, but we can't look a gift horse in the mouth," Paulwell said, while adding that consultations would be at the heart of decisions taken.
Minerals worth $184 billion
NEPA is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting sustainable development by ensuring protection of the environment and orderly development in the country.
Mining, in 2008, contributed 3.8 per cent of the country's GDP, most of it attributable to bauxite and alumina. At the time, state minister for mining Laurie Broderick estimated that if the mineral sector really got going, its combined gross value would be $184 billion a year.
"The time has come for us to hasten the diversification of the entire minerals industry with emphasis on the production of value-added products," Broderick told Parliament that year.
The National Mineral Policy states the scope of the minerals industry in Jamaica includes mining and quarrying, manufacturing of mineral-based products, metallurgical research, education and development, and mineral waste management and recycling.
Successive governments have been actively considering increasing the mining of gypsum, sand and gravel, hard volcanic rocks (from which skid aggregates are produced), clay, semi-precious minerals, including marble and granite, shale; and pozollan.