The work presented here is part of DFID project R7814 - 'Effective Development of River Mining', which seeks to decrease the environmental and social impacts associated with river mining while increasing sustainable economic activity.
The primary objective of the work reported here was the assessment of environmental and social impacts of river mining in Jamaica. The secondary objective was the development of a 'Code of Practice' that outlined potential measures and that - if adopted - would prevent or mitigate the major environmental and social impacts of river mining activities in Jamaica and elsewhere.
The impact assessment has been undertaken in two stages:
1) A comprehensive desktop review of the potential impacts, based on existing literature relating to river mining. This literature is relatively extensive, but the degree to which Jamaica is specifically referenced is limited.
2) Fieldwork to identify the significance of the potential impacts in the specific environmental and social context of Jamaica and to identify any additional impacts not highlighted during the desktop review.
The scope of the fieldwork visit to Jamaica included the identification of significant social and environmental impacts at all phases of development, positive as well as negative, direct, indirect, and cumulative, permanent and temporary as well as the identification of appropriate technical and strategic mitigation measures to address these impacts. The sites broadly designated for investigation included all significant legal and illegal operations on the Yallahs river basin southeast of Kingston and the lower Rio Minho river basin west of Kingston on the southern side of Jamaica.
The assessment of social impacts at the local level involved investigating the impacts of the river mining activity and the response of affected stakeholders based on the assessors' own opinion, checklists, local secondary sources, participant observation and the result of semistructured interviews with local project stakeholders. The project stakeholders included, but were not limited to, the management of operations and their employees, residents, health and police officials, council officials, customers, suppliers and local businesses.
Two additional days of fieldwork were dedicated to data gathering from key stakeholders of river mining at the strategic level.
The critical factors affecting the nature and degree of environmental and social impacts observed during the course of this research include; the legal status of the mine operators; regulatory development and enforcement; government agency co-ordination; agency funding and corruption. These interrelated factors are in no way unique to the Jamaican context and are typical of the natural resources sector and regulatory environments of many developing and even developed countries around the world.
There is a need to synthesise the legislation and develop a memorandum of understanding between departments regarding monitoring and enforcement responsibilities. In this, the collaborative efforts of the NRCA, the Environmental Warden Services of the Ministry of Environment and Housing, the National Security Force and the Judicial System will be critical. However, equally critical is clarifying and streamlining the process. One measure would be to ensure that agencies charged with monitoring have the enforcement authority. In this respect, NEPA should be given greater enforcement rights and capacity. Moreover, enforcement should not be the responsibility of departments like Mines and Geology who have an economic stake in mining as this places them in the position of 'poacher and gamekeeper'.
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