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Currie rues mining green light for St Ann lands

JET welcomes smaller area, wary of gazetting delay for Cockpit Country

Published:Tuesday | January 4, 2022 | 12:10 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Maroon Chief Richard Currie.
Maroon Chief Richard Currie.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Richard Currie, colonel of the Accompong Maroons, has said that the Government’s decision to grant Noranda Bauxite permission to mine 1,324 hectares of their lands in the protected area of St Ann is in direct violation of the rights of his people and has suggested that the move will cause irreparable damage for the indigenous group.

“I am totally not comfortable. There is a need for dialogue and maybe we have passed dialogue,” he told The Gleaner, responding to yesterday’s announcement.

“We see that the players are relentless in their pursuit of degrading our sacred lands and are ripping from us our rights and purity,” he stated.

He argued that mining in the area would trample on the rights of the Maroon heritage, noting that the Maroon Council was discussing the matter to determine their next move.

In announcing the approval, Peter Knight, CEO of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), said the area in question was a very limited geographical area, much smaller than the 8,335 hectares for which Noranda had applied.

“The decision of the NRCA is to release an area of approximately 1,324 hectares of the 6,163 hectares located exclusively in the parish of St Ann,” Knight said during a virtual press conference yesterday.

“This area excludes the school and the Madras community,” he added.

Irreversible damage

However, Currie, whose Maroon enclave lies in the belly of the Cockpit Country, mainly in St Elizabeth, is objecting to the permit, warning that mining in the area could cause irreversible damage.

Knight said that the Ministry of Health & Wellness will be doing a health impact study and that plans are in place to formally gazette the Cockpit Country Protected Area – the exact boundaries of which remain contentious – at the very earliest.

While expressing satisfaction that the area approved has been reduced, Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, remains concerned that no timeline has been given for the study and the gazetting of the boundaries.

“I think it’s a major concession where we have moved from over 8,000 hectares down to only about just over 1,000 hectares to be mined. We are pleased with that; however, we are cautiously optimistic because we still don’t have timelines with those things,” she told The Gleaner.

She said that if not gazetted quickly, more environmental damage could occur if Noranda Bauxite successfully appeals the decision to only grant them just over 1,000 hectares or another company decides to apply for a licence there.

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com