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State Minister for Agriculture and Lands, Victor Cummings, has reminded entities engaged in the local minerals industry to include the restoration of mined-out lands, as part of their normal operations.
Speaking at the 32nd annual staging of the National Minerals Industry Safety Awards ceremony last week at the Terra Nova Hotel, the State Minister stressed that mining companies had an obligation to satisfactorily restore all mined-out lands within three years after mining activities have been completed in any area.
He said that this was most significant, as “failure to do so would attract a penalty of US$25,000 per hectare.”
“In addition, there is a further penalty of US$2,500 for each year during which the pit remains unrestored,” the Minister noted. These penalties become applicable as of August 31, 2007.
Mr. Cummings pointed out that while all relevant companies have been notified and reminded of this deadline and the consequences of their failure to comply, some companies were still behind in their restoration schedules.
“As at 2006, some 7,473 hectares of land were disturbed since the inception of bauxite, and of this amount, only 4,804 hectares or 64 per cent have been certified by the Commissioner of Mines as having being satisfactorily restored,” the State minister said.
In light of this, the Commissioner of Mines has been meeting with these companies and proposals have been presented to address the backlog.
However, Mr. Cummings emphasised that, “while mercy’s gates are open, they should take advantage of this opportunity, because we shall be coming down very hard on those companies that do not live up to their end of the bargain and restore mined-out lands.”
The State Minister also suggested that, “there is a need to turn over to the communities in a timely manner, more restored mined-out bauxite lands, to be used primarily for agricultural purposes.”
This, he said, would enhance the effort to foster greater co-operation with the communities in which the companies operate.