Full Text … Gov’t outlines position on Dry Harbour agreement
The Government has issued a statement outlining its decision to grant a mining permit for Puerto Bueno Mountain, also called the Dry Harbour Mountain, in St Ann, despite a rejection of the application by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
NEPA turned down the application by Bengal Development Limited/Jamaica World LLC in May and the company then filed an appeal, which was upheld in July by then Minister without Portfolio Leslie Campbell, working out of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
The decision has been heavily criticised.
Today's statement from OPM stressed that measures have been put in place to mitigate the impact on species biodiversity for the area and ensure greater management of the total acreage.
Given concerns raised in the public domain, we have ensured that a robust and transparent process was engaged in making this determination, the statement noted.
In 2010, the Government of Jamaica, through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), on behalf of the National Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) received an application from Bengal Development Limited for 572 acres of lands situated in Discovery Bay, St. Ann.
Following established procedures, NEPA accepted the application and commenced a process of consultation with public sector agencies and departments, the St Ann Parish Council, environmental non-governmental organisations and private sector stakeholders. It was widely agreed that the application for 572 acres to be mined would not be favourably considered without a rapid ecological assessment to inform any decision to be taken on the application.
Subsequent to the assessment, the agency determined that a portion of the lands (123 acres) could be considered for mining activities as those lands were marginal lands and already disturbed due to a number of factors to include human intrusion and previous mining activities.
The applicants were therefore directed to do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The actions of the agency and subsequent endorsement by the then NRCA were predicated on the fact that mining was allowed in the area in 2001.
In fact, the Mines and Geology Division granted a licence for mining and quarrying - spanning the years 2001 to 2008 - to mine aggregates for the construction of the North Coast Highway.
The facts show that between 2010 to present there have been several applications for mining on the property each resulting in greater study of the area and refinements of the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Indeed, NEPA had earlier rejected EIA reports as they did not meet the requirements.
In January 2020, the matter was considered by the Technical Review Committee (TRC) – which comprises representatives from various government/departments/agencies. The technical experts and subject specialists engaged in a comprehensive and balanced deliberation on the application. It is important to note that while the technical review considered the environmental threats and outlined the basis on which the application could be rejected, it also considered that the environmental threats were capable of mitigation.
The technical review, therefore, offered an option to accept the application and outlined the conditions under which acceptance would be appropriate.
NEPA incorporated the deliberations of the Technical Review Committee and presented two options to the NRCA for consideration - one to accept with conditions and the other to reject the application. Four months later, in May 2020, the NRCA took the decision to deny the application.
As is established, under Section 35 of the NRCA Act, the applicants appealed the decision of the NRCA.
The matter was considered by the then Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Leslie Campbell. The Minister, in a transparent manner, considered the submissions and sought technical advice.
As the process allows, submissions in the appeal were heard from both the NEPA technical team and the applicants.
The Minister, in hearing the appeal, examined several factors, including how the NRCA arrived at its decision, land management and use, minerals and environmental enterprises as economic drivers, mitigation measures to prevent or reduce environmental and health hazards, the regulatory and enforcement capacity of the regulator, and the specific development proposal of the applicant.
Based on the environmental permit stipulations, Bengal Development Limited is directed to restore the land, replant trees and engage in other activities that would protect and improve environmental management, and establish wide buffer zones, among the over 70 conditions that have been imposed on them.
It was therefore concluded that the measures put in place would mitigate the impact on species biodiversity for the area and ensure greater management of the total acreage.
Mining has only been permitted on the disturbed marginal areas of the land which already has been mined and amounts to approximately 20% of the total area applied for.
The remaining 80% of the 572 acres will continue to be untouched and form part of the forested cluster in the parish.
The developers are required to obtain a mining licence from the Mines and Geology Division.
Given concerns raised in the public domain, we have ensured that a robust and transparent process was engaged in making this determination.
We understand and appreciate, and are sensitive to all the issues involved and believe we have found a sustainable solution to preserve and protect our environment while at the same time pursuing our economic and social well-being.
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