Sand miners feel the pinch
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
The Mines and Geology Division has instituted a clampdown on all sand-mining operations along the course of the Rio Minho in Clarendon with immediate effect. Last Wednesday, quarry operators were advised of the agency's plans to conduct individual site-specific inspections of active mines to determine their suitability to continue operating, given the chronic depletion of the sand resources in that river.
Commissioner of Mines Clinton Thompson told them during a workshop at Hotel Versalles in May Pen, Clarendon, that where there was not enough sand to facilitate the requisite volume of sand production in keeping with the terms of their licences, these operations would be suspended.
He explained that where a determination was made to suspend mining activities due to inadequate volumes of the aggregate to facilitate the required throughput, this would not mean a suspension of the mining licence. So should the situation change to facilitate start-up, this would be allowed, but again subject to approval from the Mining and Geology Division.
"We will determine which ones will have to be rested and the resting will be a function of the replenishment, and before you start up, we will now have to go and assess to see how much material would have come down; no licence will be renewed unless they provide a resource evaluation," he told The Gleaner afterwards.
Thompson explained that the chronic shortage of this essential aggregate in one of Jamaica's largest sand mines triggered an upsurge in the harvesting/manufacturing of sand from other sources.
"We are going to look at alternatives in some areas where there is material (sand) on the river terraces, not the banks, we can't trouble that, but the land which is quite a distance away from the banks," the commissioner of mines disclosed. He explained that sections of Caymanas in St Catherine are rich in sand deposits, which are suitable for building/construction but would cost more to mine.
"That was never explored to a great degree because on-land operations require more resources for rehabilitation [after excavation], which has to be at an acceptable standard and ideally would take an integrated approach to include crop cultivation on the site as part of the process."
Thompson also pointed out that some operators were now manufacturing sand by crushing stones and providing specialised grades and mixes for niche markets such as golf courses. He went on to stress that while the island's aggregate resources were expected to come under pressure, there was no need for panic, emphasising instead that stakeholders should use the opportunity work to ensure sustainability of the industry through environmentally sound business practices.