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Under Review

Holness pledges to examine Cockpit Country mining concerns

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporterBY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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TROY, Trelawny — Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he is reviewing the concerns of various stakeholders over the anticipated mining near the protected Cockpit Country area, following representation from Member of Parliament for Trelawny Southern, Marissa Dalrymple Philibert.

“She [Dalrymple Philibert] raised many of the concerns that residents, farmers, environmentalists, who are close to the situation within a particular section of the Cockpit Country, would have. Those matters are now under my review. And at some later stage, I will be able to make further pronouncements on those. But my first response is always to protect the environment. And, therefore, in trying to balance all the elements and factors, some of them with legal consequences, I have to ensure that the review is thorough, the review takes into consideration all the scientific data and knowledge that exist. Of course I have to also pay attention to what the people want, to the cultural and historical factors that play into how the people perceive the environment,” Holness explained.

“It is never a simple issue. It is a complex one that we have to spend the time to make sure that we get it right. But at the end of the day, we will come up with a sustainable solution.”

The prime minister was speaking at the Cockpit Country boundary demarcation ceremony in Troy, Trelawny last week Wednesday.

Dalrymple-Philibert later expressed that she is satisfied that Holness will address the concerns she had raised.

“I expressed the concerns of everybody, I have spoken in depth with the prime minister. He understands the concerns we have, and I am comfortable from the assurance I got that he will deal with them,” Dalrymple-Philibert told the Jamaica Observer West, when contacted.

And while not giving details, Dalrymple Philibert said the concerns include the widening of the boundaries.

Environmentalist, Hugh Dixon, executive director of the South Trelawny Environment Agency, is adamant that the boundaries of the protected Cockpit Country area should be widened to guard against some farmers outside the present demarcation from losing their livelihood when mining commences.

“I have a massive concern. The technocrats have drawn a line between what is protected and what is not. The prime minister did speak to the division. But the significant thing left out of the consideration is the human element within that whole situation. In other words, you have within those locations where these lines are: communities which have farming properties. We have a prime example here (in Troy). The Forestry Department here is protecting its forest on the left, but that yam ground nearby is not protected. If any kind of mineral deposit, let us say bauxite, or limestone, over there (in the forest) is being mined, the farmers' yam nearby would be destroyed,” Dixon argued.

Holness pointed out that while he is sympathetic to the environmental cause, “as prime minister, I am elected to look at all factors, to look at the big picture, to take into consideration all the elements of the problem to address all the complexities, and come up with a solution that is sustainable”.

He used the opportunity to stress the point that no mining will be allowed within the boundaries of the Cockpit Country, adding that already there is a move to have legislation in place to protect the designated area.

“You want to have explicit protection, particularly as it relates to where can be mined and where cannot be mined. Government's commitment and declaration still stands, there will be no mining in the Cockpit Country designated area. I called all the agencies with regulatory and management responsibility for the Cockpit lands, and who participated in the designation and demarcation of the area, and I asked each and everyone of them to go back and use their resources to ascertain and to confirm to me whether or not there is any instance of mining in the area designated to be protected as the Cockpit Country. All the agencies have come back to say that they know of no instance of mining in the area designated to be protected as the Cockpit Country,” the prime minister said.

“Bear in mind it is almost 20 years of discussions to get to this point where we have now literally in Parliament declared a boundary that can be defended. It's a major step so let us not lose sight of that. The other issues we will resolve them in time.”

The protected area, which comprises approximately 74,726 hectares, include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features, and cultural and heritage sites.


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