Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Cabinet confusion

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2016 | 1:00 AMGary Spaulding

THERE APPEARS to be confusion in the Cabinet ahead of its weekly meeting on Monday after Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill signed a Ministerial Order effectively quashing the quarrying licence signed by Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell to facilitate the disposal of sand by Karisma Limited from its property in Negril, Westmoreland.

Karisma Limited, which is engaged in a range of building construction projects of hotels in Westmoreland and St. Ann, has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in the matter.

Despite Thursday's meeting called by John Junor, chairman of the National Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and Town and Country Planning Authority (TCPA), the National Environment Planning Agency (NEPA) has maintained its silence.

It emerged at the meeting that after agreeing that the licence should be issued, NEPA by submitting a written memorandum of non-objection to the commissioner of mines, changed its mind, a decision that influenced the Ministerial Order and a likely standoff at the Cabinet level.

In correspondence to the Office of the Prime Minister and copied to other government agencies, Karisma contended that when NEPA issued its memorandum of non-objection, the quantity and the destination of the sand was a well-established fact and known by NEPA.

The letter noted that the commissioner of mines is the sole authority in Jamaica with the power to issue quarrying licences.

"Upon receipt of the application, the commissioner consulted with NEPA and communicated to the authority all the relevant details of the application, including the amount of sand being requested to be moved from the Negril construction site and the destination," it stated.

The correspondence stated that it was acknowledged at the meeting that:

• NEPA issued a written memorandum of non-objection to the application after consultation with the commissioner of mines;

• The commissioner of mines, therefore, issued a quarry licence to the owner/developer on 24th December 2015, being Quarry Licence No. 2110. The said licence contains inter alia the following special conditions;

• All carbonate sand previously extracted and stockpiled by Yabyanas Limited shall be transported to the designated site at Llandovery, St Ann.

• The volume of material to be removed shall be limited to that indicated in the volumetric survey submitted to the commissioner of mines;

• The licensee shall possess a valid environmental permit issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) for the duration of the licence.

• The licensee shall adhere to all the conditions of the environmental permit issued.

Karisma stressed that "the owner/developer is not conducting any mining activity in fact or in law. "They are conducting a construction which is generating construction excess which happens to include sand."

Arguing that the sand is a secondary by-product of the construction, Karisma insisted that the owner/developer owns the sand as a matter of law.

The developers argued that NEPA's non-objection of the application must be deemed in law and in fact to be an indication that the authority did not object to the commissioner of mines issuing the quarrying licence.