JIS News

The Mines and Geology Division, through its Sedimentary Basin Resource Assessment (SEBRA) Project, is working to limit and eventually eliminate illegal quarrying of sand from the island’s riverbeds and adjoining lands. Targeted are communities along the Rio Minho in Clarendon and the Yallahs River in St. Thomas, where an education programme has been introduced to inform residents about the importance of sand and gravel as an economic resource and the adverse effects of unregulated quarrying on host communities.
Commissioner of the Mines and Geology Division, Coy Roache, speaking at a JIS Think Tank on December 15, said that the aim was to prevent depletion of these rivers reaching the level of the Hope and Rio Cobre rivers in St. Andrew and Clarendon respectively.
He said that these catchment basins have been exhausted and over-quarried with the result being that there was still no sand in them even after ten years. “We don’t want the same fate to befall Rio Minho and Yallahs,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, a sediment budget of the basins of the Rio Minho and Yallahs Rivers has been done to ascertain how much sand is being accumulated and subsequently extracted.
SEBRA is a three-year old project, which is being funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica at a cost of $8.5 million.
As part of the project, residents living near the catchment areas are encouraged to become stewards in the preservation of river sand and gravel and the surrounding environment and to report incidents of illicit quarrying to the Mines and Geology Division.
Already, public sensitization meetings have been held in Summerfield and Water Lane in Clarendon and Carlton Baxter, Director of Economic Minerals at the Mines and Geology Division, said the feedback so far has been positive.
“Part and parcel of this project is to empower communities to take responsibility for what happens there. Persons have been reporting illegal extraction that is affecting their land and we will be looking closely at this,” he informed.
“Community stewardship is a key factor in how this project was set up because local people are being encouraged to report to Mines and Geology any illegal or legal quarrying activity in their community so that the professionals can keep persons abreast of the correct procedure at all times,” he added.
Additionally, the socio-economic effects of sand quarrying on the communities are also being investigated.
Mr. Roache pointed out that one key aim of the project was to identify alternative sources of sand and also explore the feasibility of setting up crushing plants in the near future.
“A balance has to be created between the environment and economics because sand is needed and the importation of sand into the country will wipe out the earnings from bauxite,” he noted.

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