Stakeholders in Jamaica’s development minerals industry have expressed gratitude for the provision of grants totalling €51,000 (approximately J$9 million) to 12 small-scale artisans and miners, to support their businesses and fund emergency responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The grants were provided under phase two of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Development Minerals Programme, being jointly implemented locally by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office and the Mines and Geology Division of the Ministry of Transport and Mining.
Development minerals are materials that are mined, processed, manufactured and used domestically in industries such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture. They include gravel, limestone and marl.
The ACP-EU Programme, which is funded by the European Union, is a capacity-building initiative that aims to build the profile and improve the management of development minerals in participating countries.
During a recent digital ceremony to announce the grant awards, President of the Mining and Quarrying Association of Jamaica, Anthony Morgan, noted that the entity is appreciative and supportive of the ACP-EU programme, adding that the funds were “very timely”, in light of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
“It is well known that physical development, that is the construction of buildings and infrastructure, is a big part of the forces that drive the economy. Therefore, the quarrying sector, in particular, is hard hit… and this assistance offered by the ACP-EU will go a long way in helping quarry operators to conform with the protocols that are needed for operating during the pandemic,” he said.
Mr. Morgan noted that the slowdown in the industry also provides the opportunity for quarry operators to undertake activities such as major repairs, equipment and infrastructure upgrading.
“All of these will require new working capital… and the Mining and Quarrying Association is suggesting that the Development Bank of Jamaica, in particular, should look at establishing rehabilitation funds for quarries, so that when we [fully] start the restoration programme for the economy, the quarries will be in a good position to make their contribution,” he added.
For her part, Managing Director for Shaw’s Quarry Limited, Michelle Shaw, who is one of the 12 beneficiaries, noted that the “sudden catastrophic impact” of COVID-19 has forced her to “modify the pathway towards sustainability for my business and the retention of a livelihood for my employees”.
Against this background, Mrs. Shaw said the grant, “which has been generously awarded through the Programme, will certainly help with clearing some of the impediments in the pathway”.
Recipients of the grants were chosen from 14 respondents to the first call for applications, which was issued in June.
All applications were submitted and scored in July, thereby facilitating the award of the grants which were disbursed to the successful applicants in August.
ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme Country Coordinator for Jamaica, Ruth Clarke, indicated that the project proposals are wide-ranging.
They focus on organic farming; training workshops for youth, particularly in the creative industries; environment-related engagements; and a project that will explore export markets, in light of the local market being depressed by the impact of COVID-19.
Ms. Clarke said the proposal entails an analysis of Jamaica’s limestone reserves to determine how best to carve a niche in the export market for that mineral.
UNDP Resident Representative, Denise Antonio, who spoke during the virtual ceremony, was optimistic that the grant support will assist the small-scale operators to successfully navigate COVID-19.
She noted that the development minerals sector has been hard hit by the pandemic, with “mandatory and necessary physical distancing protocols and disaster risk orders having slowed market spending and crippled many small-scale business operators”.
“These grants will enable the grantees to strengthen their safety, business and emergency responses to the impacts of COVID-19,” she said.
Outgoing Head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, in her remarks, said she was “particularly happy” that the 12 grantees have been empowered to undertake a wide range of projects in the minerals sector.
“I’m quite sure the grants will [assist them] in responding to the COVID-19 crisis… and alleviate the [challenges] for the persons affected,” she said.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Alwin Hales, said that since its inception, the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme has been of “signal assistance” to Jamaica’s minerals sector, particularly the industrial minerals industry.
In a message read by Principal Director for the Minerals Policy Planning and Development Division, Dr. Oral Rainford, the Permanent Secretary said the programme “has also provided a fillip to help accelerate the development of the minerals craft industry”.
Dr. Hales noted that the engagement has exposed hundreds of Jamaicans, including members of the public and private sectors, to training in an array of subject areas, locally and internationally, among these quarry management and business development.
The Permanent Secretary said the programme continues to demonstrate its value and relevance to Jamaica, as evidenced through the COVID-19 grant support.
For her part, Deputy Commissioner of Mines, Stacey Plummer, said the provision of the grants was a “timely intervention”.
She pointed out that COVID-19 has resulted in the need for individuals and organisations to “pivot in a bid to respond to these unprecedented times and, indeed, an uncertain future”.
She expressed gratitude to the EU, UNDP and ACP “for the wonderful work that you have been doing in impacting the lives of persons within the minerals sector”.
“We are all grateful for the expected positive impact on our economy and the long-term benefits that we stand to gain,” Ms. Plummer added.
Grants totalling approximately €100,000 were awarded to 19 applicants during the first phase of the programme, which commenced in 2015.
Phase two, which runs from 2019 to 2022, aims to foster better livelihoods and gender inclusion for stakeholders in the development minerals value chain of ACP countries, like Jamaica.
The targeted outcome is increased employment and economic opportunities for artisanal and small-scale mining enterprises (ASMEs), particularly for women.
Non-governmental organisation, the Rose Town Foundation for the Built Environment, was instrumental in managing and overseeing the disbursement of both sets of grants under an agreement with the UNDP.