People's National Party (PNP) President Dr. Peter Phillips has declared his party’s strong opposition to any opening up of the Cockpit Country for bauxite mining.
Concerns have emerged again in recent months regarding the possibility of bauxite mining companies being granted permission to extend their operations into the environmentally sensitive forested lands of the Cockpit Country – situated significantly in the western parish ofTrelawny but also extending into sections of several nearby parishes.
Dr. Phillips, addressing the 79th annual conference of the PNP, said the matter had been carefully studied by the last government formed by his party and the boundaries of the Cockpit Country were properly established.
“The time is now; the government must speak clearly on the matter,” he said, in reference to the boundaries.
The land in the Cockpit Country is characterised many cone shaped limestone hills, separated by deep hollows, many of them more than 120 metres deep.
Dr. Phillips said stressed that, as Jamaica embarks on a new phase of bauxite mining expansion, “and open up new facilities for mining,” the government had a duty to assure the country that the Cockpit Country, “which is essential to the livelihood and the environmental standards and well being of Jamaica, is not going to be opened up to indiscriminate mining by the mining companies.”
Attributing 40 per cent of the country’s water supplies to the Cockpit Country, and the area’s vitality to the maintenance of the island’s clean air, he warned that that the Opposition would not “stand aside and allow it to be opened up.”
Dr. Phillips said the country also needed a clear statement from the government on “the taxes that will flow from the bauxite industry.”
He claimed that the Administration had “given up all the taxes” and will now be relying purely on profits coming to the companies.
Warning that the country had “been that way before,” he recalled that it was in response to the poor revenue gained by this approach that Prime Minister Michael Manley imposed the controversial Bauxite Levy in the mid 1970s.
“We are not going to make it happen,” he declared.
He nevertheless stressed that the PNP had a history of working well with the bauxite-alumina companies and would continue to do so, but on the basis of sound principles.