Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, says the Ministry is working to ensure that the Cockpit Country is protected, especially from mining activities.
"This area (Cockpit Country) is far too important to the country's cultural and environmental heritage to have it jeopardised in this manner. Mining in the area could essentially destroy the resources found there,” he said, during his contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House, on July 24.
The Minister pointed out that the Cockpit Country constitutes about 2.1 per cent of the land area of Jamaica, and is the second largest expanse of contiguous forest remaining on the island, with the 22, 327- hectare Cockpit Country Forest Reserve at its heart. The area also supplies 40 per cent of the island’s freshwater resources.
He said that the Cockpit Country contains significant deposits of bauxite, and over the years there have been rigorous and heated discussions about the possibility of the Cockpit Country being mined for bauxite.
However, due to concerns raised by various stakeholders, in 2006, the Ministry had contracted the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of the West Indies to undertake a study to define the boundaries of the Cockpit Country and the area that can receive protection under the law.
"Very shortly, we will have to make a decision as to what allowable activities can take place in the Cockpit Country. I have been meeting with various stakeholders to determine the boundaries and what activities will be allowed,” Mr. Pickersgill informed.
The Minister further informed that the Forestry Department is finalising a management plan for the Cockpit Country.
“The comprehensive document will identify the roles and synergies among the major stakeholders, including community members operating in the area. Our energies must now be focused on reforestation, not just in the Cockpit, but in all reserves islandwide," he said.
"We have secured funding for consultations to take place with stakeholders in the Cockpit Country area and the general public on the proposed boundary and management plans for the Cockpit Country,” he added.