JIS News

The Mines and Geology Division in the Ministry of Land and Environment and the Department of Geography and Geology, University of the West Indies (UWI), are currently undertaking an assessment of the nation’s supply and demand for sand and gravel, to prevent over extraction in the sector.
The study, which is being done under the Sedimentary Basin Resource Assessment Project (SEBRA), is funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). The SEBRA was implemented in September 2002.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on March 10, the Division’s Director of Economic Minerals, Carlton Baxter explained that the project had three components.
Firstly, there is a technical component that involves an economic assessment of sand and gravel resources and a social and environmental impact study. The second segment will be a review of the legislative framework underpinning this industry, and making recommendations for improvement in the legislation.
There is also a public education component, which will empower the communities that are dependent on, and affected by quarrying, to better protect their resources and their environment.
Mr. Baxter explained that the technical component would involve post- graduate research conducted by the Department of Geography and Geology, which would indicate how much material was being removed from the river basins and the rate at which the material was being replenished.
He explained that the Division was responsible for issuing quarrying licences and this assessment would help in making decisions regarding the number and terms of licences to be issued in certain areas, to prevent over quarrying.
“To determine if over quarrying is taking place, you first need to ascertain how much of the resource you have. This project will tell us how much material we have at present, and how fast it is being replenished,” Mr. Baxter said.
The information collected will be used to set up a Geographic Information System (GIS) data base of sediment characteristics of the major rivers; a comprehensive assessment of the economic potential of sand and gravel resources in terms of supply and reserve; and an analysis of current quarrying practices.
A consultant is currently being sourced to conduct the social and environmental impact study.
The review of existing legislation should lead to the development of a national policy document for sand and gravel quarrying locally. It will seek to identify any loopholes and weaknesses in existing legislation, with the aim of strengthening the legislation.
The project’s public education component will include a series of community meetings in the parishes of Clarendon and St. Thomas, to explain the environmental risks posed by over quarrying.
“Community stewardship is a critical component of this project. We want to empower people to take responsibility over the resources within their communities,” Mr. Baxter stressed.
Community empowerment began some time ago with the formation of the North Rio Minho community monitoring committee in Clarendon, which meets monthly and is chaired by a community member.
Committee members assist the Division by reporting illegal sand and gravel mining activities in their communities.
The Division is currently in the process of forming three other community monitoring committees for South Rio Minho; Yallahs, St. Thomas and Rio Grande, Portland.
At present, the Division is assisted in its monitoring efforts by members of the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF). These specially trained police personnel pay particular attention to sensitive areas, such as South St. Catherine; Danks, Clarendon and Broughton, Westmoreland.
The SEBRA project will conclude by mid 2005.Mr. Baxter pointed out that sand and gravel quarrying contribute approximately $1 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

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