By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Grants totalling approximately $9 million (€51,000) have been awarded to 12 mining and quarry operators under phase two of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Minerals Development Programme.
The funds are being provided to assist the beneficiary individuals and entities in implementing activities to counter the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on their operations, with particular focus on safety and security, business and emergency response.
Details of the awards were announced by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Coordinator for the minerals programme, Ruth Clarke, during a brief virtual ceremony on Monday, August 17.
The UNDP, along with the Mines and Geology Department in the ministry of transport and mining are co-implementers of phase two of the programme, which is being funded by the EU.
In her remarks at the ceremony, UNDP Resident Representative, Denise Antonio, said that the support will assist the small-scale operators to successfully navigate COVID-19.
She noted that the sector has been hard hit by the pandemic, with “mandatory and necessary physical distancing protocols and disaster risk orders having slowed market spending and crippled many small-scale business operators”.
“These grants will enable the grantees to strengthen their safety, business and emergency responses to the impacts of COVID-19,” she said.
Antonio noted that the mining and quarry sector has a key role to play in the resuscitation of the economy, particularly in light of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projection of a 5.6 percent contraction in 2020.
Head of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, in her remarks said she was “particularly happy” that the 12 grantees have been empowered to undertake a wide range of projects in the minerals sector.
“I’m quite sure the grants will [assist them] in responding to the COVID-19 crisis … and alleviate the [challenges] for the persons affected,” she said.
Meanwhile, permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr Alwin Hales, said that since its inception, the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme has been of “signal assistance” to Jamaica’s minerals sector, particularly the industrial minerals industry.
In a message read by principal director for the Minerals Policy Planning and Development Division, Dr Oral Rainford, the permanent secretary said the programme “has also provided a fillip to help accelerate the development of the minerals craft industry”.
Dr Hales noted that the engagement has exposed hundreds of Jamaicans, including members of the public and private sectors, to training in an array of subject areas, locally and internationally, among these quarry management and business development.
The permanent secretary said the programme continues to demonstrate its value and relevance to Jamaica as is now evidenced through the COVID-19 grant support.
“The grants … will, undoubtedly, help the recipients to navigate this most difficult period in the country’s modern industry. I implore the recipients to make the best use of these funds … [and] ask them to remain committed to their profession and, in their own unique way, to continue to facilitate the development of our country,” Dr Hales added.
For her part, deputy commissioner of mines, Stacey Plummer, said the provision of the grants was a welcome “timely intervention”.
She pointed out that COVID-19 has resulted in the need for individuals and organisations to “pivot in a bid to respond to these unprecedented times and, indeed, an uncertain future”.
She expressed gratitude to the EU, UNDP and ACP “for the wonderful work that you have been doing in impacting the lives of persons within the minerals sector”.
“We are all grateful for the expected positive impact on our economy and the long-term benefits that we stand to gain,” Plummer added.
Recipients of the grants were chosen from 14 respondents to the first call for applications, which was issued in June.
All applications were submitted and scored in July, thereby facilitating the award of the grants to the successful applicants to whom the funds are slated to be disbursed this week.
Grants totalling approximately €100,000 were awarded to 19 applicants during the first phase of the programme, which commenced in 2015.
Phase two, which runs from 2019 to 2022, aims to foster better livelihoods and gender inclusion for stakeholders in the development minerals value chain of ACP countries, like Jamaica.
The targeted outcome is increased employment and economic opportunities for artisanal and small-scale mining enterprises (ASMEs), particularly for women.