I am not involved in any illegal sand mining - Russell
Keith Russell, the owner of the Duncans Bay Development Company in Trelawny, has flatly rejected claims by residents of the Duncans Bay community that his company is involved in illegal sand-mining in violation of several conditions recently laid down by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
In an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, Russell, who is a former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) member of parliament for North Trelawny, denied any involvement in the alleged illicit sand-mining, which is reportedly taking place late at night, to the detriment of the town's coastline.
"If there is any sand-mining going on in the late hours (at night), somebody is stealing it. We have not been involved in any sand-mining for years. We have nothing to do with it. We have never mined illegally," said Russell.
"We own about four kilometres of undeveloped beach, which is zoned and approved for tourist and hospitality facilities, which is our core business, and none of it exists in the Duncans Bay community," Russell added.
Russell's assertion contradicts claims by Delroy Boswell, the president of the Duncans Bay Citizens' Association, who says that sand is being mined and stockpiled in a protected environmental space under the cover of darkness.
"The truck would come in about 11:00 in the night, and every morning, it would leave about 5:30, and we were reliably informed that they were mining sand from the beach over at Stewart Castle and coming through the back road and stockpiling it here on Lot 226," said Boswell.
'How could NEPA give them permission?'
"They were supposedly given permission by NEPA to store the sand on Lot 226, but how could NEPA give them permission to stockpile the sand on one of our green areas?" Boswell asked.
Last month, Prime Minister Andrew Holness granted a sand-mining licence to the Duncans Bay Development Company, overturning NEPA's previous rejection of an application by the company to mine sand in Duncans Bay.
The licence was granted with several conditions, including that no mining should take place before 8:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. between Mondays and Fridays and that there should be no mining during the local sea turtles' nesting season from June to November.
Representatives of NEPA are slated to tour the area today. They are expected to give an assessment of the environmental danger to the community following the tour.