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Deliberations on return of bauxite levy under way


THE Economy and Production Committee of the House of Representatives yesterday started deliberations on a resolution put forward by Manchester Southern Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Stewart calling for the restoration of the levy on bauxite mining operations.

The motion also calls for restrictions on the amount of funds that can be transferred from the capital development fund to the consolidated fund, with Stewart pointing out that the investments that these drawdowns have been put towards have not directly nor significantly impacted the communities which are now suffering from the ravages of bauxite mining.

In the resolution, the MP argued that over the past 40 years, mining activities in his constituency, as well as other areas in the parishes of St Elizabeth, St Ann, and Clarendon, have devastated orchards, farmlands, and the general environment with no significant benefits in return.

He pointed out that roads and general infrastructure have also been degraded, and residents of these communities left with respiratory illnesses. Stewart said it is still not clear how the profit-sharing proposal, which has replaced the bauxite levy, will benefit these mining areas.

At yesterday’s sitting, Manchester North Western MP Mikael Phillips pointed out that mining activities are to begin in his constituency at the end of this month, but that no infrastructure has been put in place for haulage which means main roads will have to be used.

“They claim they don’t mash up the roads, but it is a hindrance for these trucks to be traversing these narrow roads, and then they’re telling the community that they’re not able to put in a haul road for another year… When NEPA [National Environment and Planning Agency] is granting the licence for hauling and mining [there should be] some infrastructure priorities that should be put in place, that should not hamper communities. [These] are some of the things we need to discuss,” Phillips said, highlighting that heavy haulage activity is taking place on roads that have already cost the Government millions to rehabilitate.

Phillips said the committee would need to have discussion with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the mining ministry on the policies and timelines that are now in place for mining activities across the affected parishes.

St James Central MP Heroy Clarke stressed that ways must be found for bauxite mining to positively co-exist with communities.

“Bauxite has been part of the family for quite sometime and it is not going away, therefore, we must live as very good neighbours. The bauxite has to give as much as possible, you’re not asking for everything… But if it is that they’re unable to help with the roadway, then we can safely say that, ‘Okay, we are not going to allow you to drive on our roads,’ and we really don’t want that. We want a harmonious relationship, so we must have something in black and white to say that, ‘Okay, every three or five years they are going to do some amount of roadwork.’ ”

On the matter of the levy, which was established to ensure that some amount of investment is made in communities where there are bauxite mining operations, Phillips said the arrangement has never worked effectively in the history of the constituency development fund.

MP for Portland Eastern, Ann-Marie Vaz, said that going forward, with the new mining activities that are set to take place in Manchester North Western, measures must be put in place to ensure that the situation across other areas is not repeated.

“When I met with Jamalco my recommendation to them was about the livelihood of the hundreds of farmers on their property. There is a tendency to move them off — they ought to go find land otherwise to farm, but there are probably no more lands around there because they are going to be mining everything,” Phillips said.

The MP said measures must be found to engage the farmers and their families so they can maintain their livelihoods at current levels until the lands are reclaimed, but, at the same time, he said there remain concerns about families being displaced while mining activities are carried out.

“There are some minimum standards where mining in a community is concerned, that ought to be looked at,” he said.

MP for St Elizabeth North Eastern, Evon Redman, also stressed that the inherent problems of relocation, must also be addressed.

“A lot of these communities that they have been relocated in, there is no water, no road, no electricity. They just take them there, dump them, and leave them and forget them,” he said.

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