Government Positioning Jamaica to Tap Into Billion-Dollar Minerals Industry

Minister of Transport and Mining Michael Henry


KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday November 23, 2017 – Jamaica wants to tap into potential opportunities from the billion-dollar global minerals industry. And the government will be using a National Minerals Policy (NMP) to position itself to do just that.

“The sector has a current value of just over US$1 billion, and under the new minerals policy, every effort will be made to integrate it into the wider society, so that the ripple effect will trickle down to the community level,” Minister of Transport and Mining Michael Henry said on Tuesday at the National Minerals Week Investment Forum.

He said Cabinet is to receive a submission shortly on the first draft of the NMP, which provides for the management and development of Jamaica’s mineral resources.

It places emphasis on partnership between the public and the private sectors and outlines the possible benefits of the structured development of the minerals sector to the Jamaican people, as well as the mix of policy measures, objectives and strategies to be pursued in order to realize the sector’s continued transformation and optimal development.

Minister Henry said the time had come for players in the sector to organize their operations to maximize returns and go for the growth that beckons.

He argued that there was no way to improve the sector “without taking steps to diversify it and take advantage of the value-added components that have seemingly eluded us over the years”.

Henry also said assured that efforts would be redoubled to ensure the sustainability of the sector, adding that more emphasis would be placed on the environment and the people.

As such, he said, operations will be more stringently policed and operators will have to adhere to the regulations that govern the sector.

Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in Parliament that the Mining Act and any existing mining licences would be amended to prevent mining in an area to be designated a protected area – include existing forest reserves, significant hydrological and ecological features and cultural and heritage sites – in Cockpit Country.

Cockpit Country, which covers approximately 74,726 hectares, provides 51 per cent of the island’s closed broad leaf forest cover, is the source of 40 per cent of western Jamaica’s water resources, and is home to the island’s Accompong Maroons. Its boundaries run through parts of the parishes of Manchester, St Elizabeth, St James, Trelawny and St Ann.

“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,” he said.

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

Meantime, Minister Henry also mentioned plans for the establishment of a National Minerals Institute for the training and development of human resources for the sector.

“I am aiming to see the development of a training programme for young people in the industry,” he said, noting that the minerals school will provide an opportunity to “hone new skills and improve on what we have”.

“As we move forward, I have given instructions for this to be fast-tracked,” he said.

The Transport and Mining said the National Minerals Institute will have support from the Minerals Development Council and the National Mineral-Bearing Lands Management Committee.

“I want to see a modernization of the framework for sustainable mineral use. I want to see improved competitiveness, improved efficiency of operations, and, most importantly, improved occupational health among the workforce as we expose them to developing and new technologies,” he pointed out.

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