Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness challenged notions put forth by expatriates in recent days regarding bauxite mining and the government’s commitment to environmental protection.
Holness spoke to a New York radio program on Thursday in a break from his attendance at a United Nations environmental summit, telling the interviewer that Jamaica continues to be a state governed by the legal process, especially when it comes to environmental issues.
“The environment always comes first,” insisted Holness. “So, the issue is how do we use our environment in a sustainable way for economic gain, and that cannot happen without proper analysis and investigation.”
“So, the Government is exploring other areas where there may be reserves for bauxite, where there may be the potential for the company that is interested in mining in those particular areas, to be mined elsewhere. So we are looking at all those possibilities.”
Holness was speaking in response to Jamaicans who protested his speech to the UN on Thursday. Protesters voiced their objection to the government’s issuance of a bauxite mining license to Noranda for a tract of land immediately outside Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA), arguing that no mining should occur in the entirety of Cockpit Country.
Holness continued by noting the efforts his government has and continues to undertake to conserve the local environment, including a watershed rehabilitation initiative and a project aimed at planting 4 million trees on the island.
“So, I totally reject any form of suggestion that the Government is insensitive to the environment, and I totally reject any movement which would want to suggest that the Government would allow mining in any environmentally or ecologically sensitive area,” he insisted.
Noranda’s bauxite license has proven to be significantly controversial due to its proximity to the CCPA. The firm has long promised to be good stewards of the land, including holding to its obligations to seal off heritage sites and caves and restore topsoil to the site at the completion of mining operations.