Fri | Jul 30, 2021

NEPA to decide on Noranda mining permit in two months

Published:Friday | January 29, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Peter Knight, CEO of NEPA.
Peter Knight, CEO of NEPA.

The country will have to wait for at least another two months before a decision is made by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on whether Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners will receive a permit to mine bauxite in the section of the Cockpit Country known as the Special Mining Lease 173 (SML 173) area.

The defined boundaries of the Cockpit Country have been the subject of intense public debate, with environmentalists and lobbyists contending that SML 173 and other sections of west central Jamaica should be declared off-limits to bauxite mining.

“We have another at least two months before we would be in a position to complete all the reviews and receiving responses from consultants so that we can go forward with a decision,” NEPA’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Knight told members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday.

In a report to the PAAC, the environmental oversight body said it was too early to comment on the potential impact of mining operations on water resources and biodiversity in the areas. The agency said that an in-depth review of the environment impact assessment (EIA) and consultation with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors are continuing.

RESIDENTS AFFECTED

During the deliberations, PAAC Chairman Mikael Phillips complained that some bauxite companies had breached the terms of their permits to the detriment of residents in areas where bauxite is mined.

He said that for the last four years bauxite had been trucked from Mile Gully to Clarendon on the roads used by motorists. According to Phillips, an alternative road should have been built by the bauxite company to truck the ore, but to date this has not happened.

Phillips wanted to know if NEPA could address the reported concern, seeing that it had granted an environmental permit for bauxite mining in that area.

However, Knight indicated that the policing of such regulations was not the remit of NEPA, but should be reported to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute or the Mines and Geology Department.

Phillips noted that residents in areas where bauxite is mined did not feel that the authorities took their plight seriously. He said that residents sometimes expressed their frustration in the form of street protests.