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Stiffer fines for illegal quarrying

Saturday, April 5 2014

STIFFER fines meant to tackle the problem of illegal quarrying were yesterday unveiled by Finance and Economy Minister Larry Howai, as the Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine confirmed the problem remained ongoing.

Piloting the Finance Bill 2014, Howai said the State would amend the State Lands Act and the Minerals Act to deter illegal quarrying and to promote sustainable development in the quarry industry but in an environmentally sound manner.

“This activity is so lucrative that this Government is concerned that the existing fines are not a sufficient deterrent,” Howai said. As a result, current fines that are at $200,000 have been increased to $500,000, while fines at $300,000 have moved to $700,000.

For anyone who purchases any mineral from an illegal operator, the fine on summary conviction will be increased from $100,000 to $500,000.

Even legal operators are targeted. If they fail to notify the Director of Minerals at the Ministry of Energy of any minerals not authorized by the licence; fail to maintain proper books or records; obstruct the Director or pollutes any water course in the exercise of his operations, the fine is now moved from $100,000 to $500,000.

The catch-all offence of breaching the law governing quarrying now features a fine of $200,000, up from $50,000. Illegal removal of asphalt or other minerals on State lands attracts a penalty of $300,000, up from $120,000 on first conviction, then $500,000 for subsequent conviction.

Ramnarine yesterday told Parliament during Question Time that in the past three years the Minerals Division investigated 27 reports of illegal quarry activity. He said where it was confirmed that matters warranted action they were referred to the police, but did not give a figure.

He said there have been reports of illegal quarrying at Matura and Valencia, with Matura as the “epicentre of illegal quarrying”. However the activity reportedly takes place elsewhere, as at Wallerfield, Cedros, Caparo, Talparo, Longdenville, Las Lomas and Forres Park. As at June 31, 2010 to date, a total of six persons were arrested and charged. Equipment has been seized and stored at Camp Cumuto, Wallerfield. He said there are 42 licenced quarries and 25 of these are on State lands.

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