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No public consultation on rare minerals pilot plant construction

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2013 | 6:12 PM

The planned construction of a pilot plant to process rare earth minerals in one of the most sought after green areas of the capital city will go ahead despite opposition from environmental advocates who insist that there must be public consultation.

Executive director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), Dr Parris Lyew Ayee, says no public consultation is required for the building of the pilot plant on lands in Hope Gardens, St Andrew.

Speaking on the Jamaica Information Service television programme, Issues and Answers, Dr Lyew Ayee said construction will go ahead.

Ground has already broken for construction to begin.

According to the JBI head, the red mud from waste ponds, which will be used for extraction, will be dried and neutralised prior to being taken to the pilot plant for processing and so will not pose a danger to the environment.

He says the remainder will be kept in containment ponds at the JBI for further research.

He maintains that the approach Jamaica will be taking to extracting rare earth minerals will not involve mining as obtains in China and Brazil, which poses serious environmental risks.

He adds that the approach will also allow the Government to capitalise on hazardous waste.

Lyew Ayee argues that the country stands to profit from rare earth minerals as the globe becomes more technology driven.

He says many of the elements used in electronic devices, such as Ipods and other gadgets, depend significantly on rare earth metals.

He adds that permanent magnets used in motors and turbines and other machines, are also made from rare earth minerals.

But local environmentalists have expressed mixed feelings about the country’s foray into extracting rare earth metals from bauxite waste.

The Jamaica Environment Trust, in particular, had said that while it supports the approach in principle, a public meeting is needed to address the concerns of residents in Mona Heights, Hope Pastures and other St Andrew communities surrounding the facility.


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