Cockpit Country Boundary Named… No Mining in Protected Area

Photo: Mark Bell Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, yesterday (November 21), announced the boundary of the Cockpit Country, while declaring that no mining will be permitted in the protected area.
  • He noted that while the country forgoes the exploitation of millions of tonnes of high-grade bauxite and limestone with potential earnings of billions of United States dollars, “we cannot put a price tag on the loss to our water resources and biodiversity”.
  • With regards to the forested areas, the Cabinet has decided to extend the existing Cockpit Country, Litchfield-Matheson’s Run and the Fyffe and Rankine Forest Reserves to take in the broadleaf forests which are in close proximity to these areas.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, yesterday (November 21), announced the boundary of the Cockpit Country, while declaring that no mining will be permitted in the protected area.

Addressing the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister said in this regard, the Mining Act and any existing mining licences will be amended to close these areas to mining.

“The Government is of the view that this area is too valuable, in terms of its ecological and hydrological importance and uniqueness, to allow mining, which may result in permanent and irreversible harm and deprive future generations of the benefit of this national asset,” Mr. Holness said.

He noted that while the country forgoes the exploitation of millions of tonnes of high-grade bauxite and limestone with potential earnings of billions of United States dollars, “we cannot put a price tag on the loss to our water resources and biodiversity”.

The Prime Minister said, however, that mining and other activities may take place outside the protected area.

“The Cabinet mandated that major development activities within the proximate environs of the Cockpit Country Protected Area will be subject to rigorous processes of decision making, including approval by Cabinet, taking into account the provisions of the relevant legislation,” he added.

Cabinet, in determining the boundary, took into account the closed broadleaf forest cover/primary forest; the rich biodiversity; the hydrology; and important historical, cultural sites.

The Prime Minister said the area to be protected will include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features and cultural and heritage sites.

“This area comprises approximately 74,726 hectares and will be referred to as the Cockpit Country Protected Area and will be protected under specific legislation as advised by the Attorney General,” he explained.

Mr. Holness noted that a detailed description of the boundary of the Cockpit Country and the Cockpit Country Protected Area as recognised by the State will be provided by the Forestry Department after consultations with the relevant public-sector agencies and the necessary ground truthing, a term used in various fields to refer to information provided by direct observation (empirical evidence), as opposed to information provided by inference.

In relation to the hydrological resources, the Water Resources Authority identified and advised the Cabinet on hydrological features within the environs of the Cockpit Country that required protection. In this regard, caves in the north-east, in the Rio Bueno watershed, and in the north-west, have been included in the area to be protected.

With regards to the forested areas, the Cabinet has decided to extend the existing Cockpit Country, Litchfield-Matheson’s Run and the Fyffe and Rankine Forest Reserves to take in the broadleaf forests which are in close proximity to these areas.

As it relates to the historical and cultural sites within the area, the Ministry with responsibility for culture and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust have advised that sufficient safeguards exist under the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act to protect the cultural and historical sites and artefacts in the area.

“We have gone further to request the portfolio Ministry with responsibility for culture to fast-track the identification of other important cultural/historical sites and artefacts in the area with a view to protecting them under the law. In addition, the Ministry has been asked to seek the nomination of the Cockpit Country Protected Area as a World Heritage site under UNESCO,” the Prime Minister informed.

In addition, to ensure the effective management of the Cockpit Country Protected Area, and in recognition of the rights of private landowners, the Government is to continue to partner with private landowners, local groups and other stakeholders, including the Accompong Maroons, in the development of a comprehensive Management Plan for the area.

Mr. Holness said implementation of this plan will require dedicated resources from the national budget as well as donor support, adding that the plan will be subject to Cabinet approval, following which it will be tabled in Parliament.

JIS Social