Audrey Sewell, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and PAAC Chairman Mikael Phillips
Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) was on Wednesday forced to abandon its probe of the permit issued to Bengal Development Limited for mining in the Dry Harbour Mountain after learning the matter is now before the courts.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and its parent ministry, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, were expected to be grilled by the PAAC about the granting of the mining permit.
However, Audrey Sewell, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, informed the committee of the developments during the sitting, noting that "there may be concern with us making public statements, even to outline the process for the issuing of the environmental permit, because action was filed in the Supreme Court."
The committee suspended the sitting briefly to get legal advice and PAAC Chairman Mikael Phillips later announced the decision to put the matter on hold. However, he noted that if there is any reason to recall the groups, the committee would do so "after the matter has been ventilated in the courts."
The government and the mining company have been sued by a group of residents for alleged breaches of constitutional rights. The residents are also seeking a permanent injunction against mining in the area.
More than 70 conditions that have been imposed on Bengal Development with regards to the mining permit.
The company has until January 17 to pay a $40 million performance bond, which is one of the conditions, or face sanctions.
With the Dry Harbour mining issue now on hold, Mr. Phillips said the committee would move its probe to the Cockpit Country.
The granting of a special lease to Noranda bauxite for mining in the vicinity of the Cockpit Country has been an issue of concern for many residents and environmentalists.
Mr. Phillips said NEPA and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation will be asked to return to the PAAC to provide answers as soon as the committee goes through the documentation it has received on the deal.