Protecting Jamaica’s Cockpit Country

From “Save Cockpit Country,” Episode 3.

We were thrilled to announce in November 2017 that Jamaican Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness ordered protection for Cockpit Country from proposed bauxite mining. He designated over 74,000 hectares of this unique, internationally recognized treasure to become the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA).
But the struggle is not over.
ELAW partners at the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) write that a new mining lease has been granted by the Jamaican Government since the Prime Minister’s 2017 announcement, which will allow bauxite companies to mine right up to the edge of the CCPA boundary. 
“The Cockpit Country Protected Area has not yet been declared protected under Jamaican law or closed to mining by the government,” says Suzanne Stanley, JET CEO.

Cockpit Country is a rugged part of western Jamaica that includes the largest remaining natural forest in Jamaica. It is culturally unique — home to the Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves who successfully fought the British to a treaty in 1739.
Cockpit Country’s most unique, irreplaceable value is as a source of fresh water — it stores water underground and releases it through rivers, streams, springs, upwellings, glades, and ponds, supplying 40% of western Jamaica’s water needs.
ELAW has collaborated with JET since 2006 to secure lasting protection for Cockpit Country. Most recently, ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Meche Lu used ArcMap to generate a map for JET of Cockpit Country illustrating the Jamaican government’s proposed CCPA boundary, and ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik helped expose the real impacts of bauxite mining on Cockpit Country’s groundwater.
Mining proponents had touted a report showing that mining posed minimal risks to water supplies in Cockpit Country’s Rio Bueno watershed. Mark helped JET demonstrate that the report was not what it was purported to be, and had no information about toxic metal and organic contaminants in waters impacted by bauxite mining in the vicinity of Cockpit Country.
“We are using this information to advocate against bauxite prospecting and mining alongside Cockpit Country communities which have been left out of the protected area,” says Suzanne.
“We want the government’s commitment that no other mining leases or prospecting licenses will be granted until the CCPA has been protected under law.”

Jamaicans need the fresh water that Cockpit Country provides. Fresh water is too valuable to jeopardize in the face of climate change. Groundwater in Jamaica is extremely vulnerable to contamination, and Jamaica should do all it can to protect it.
Now is the time to protect Cockpit Country.
For more information, see:
Save Cockpit Country

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide