Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said last week that money played no part in his government’s issuance of a license to mine bauxite ore at Puerto Bueno Mountain in St. Ann. Critics say mining at the site may well threaten the area that activists say is biologically sensitive.
The license, which was granted to Bengal Development Limited, would permit mining of bauxite ore as well as several other minerals after tendering an environmental performance bond of J$40 million to the government. The bond notwithstanding, Holness has gone on record many times promising to be quick to shut down mining at the site if problems occurred.
“What won out was for more careful and comprehensive consideration of the environmental benefits and the economic and developmental benefits,” Holness said to local media on Thursday.
He continued by saying the main issue was “not that we should not disturb the environment, it is, how do you build […] you have to build with sustainability in mind.”
“A strategy of protecting the environment is ensuring that people have livelihoods,” he continued. Holness went on to say that the land required rehabilitation already due to prior illegal mining.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) encumbered the permit with a list of 72 conditions for which Bengal would be responsible for meeting and funding. Holness reiterated that he’d be the first to shut down the company if and when any of those conditions were not met.
“The truth is, if it is done properly, we would then have proper ownership of the land, put proper systems in place, and the environment would benefit from that,” Holness elaborated.
“The public narrative, as if to suggest that the Government is just going out there destroying assets without any form of consideration, that is not true,” he continued. “I rubbish that.”