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‘All procedures were properly followed’
Environmental Management Authority (EMA) CEO Dr Joth Singh said all procedures were properly followed in processing a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) to National Quarries Company Limited in 2007 for quarrying activity near the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Arima. Last week, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine ordered National Quarries to stop all quarrying in the area following complaints from environmentalists and officials of Asa Wright.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Singh said the EMA is very thorough in its application of the Environmental Management Act and its subsidiary legislation. He explained that from the point at which National Quarries made the initial CEC application in February 2007, numerous activities occurred between the EMA and National Quarries to ensure the EMA had complete information to assess the application.
He said the EMA had a number of requests for further information for items needing clarification and also had to develop a draft Terms of Reference once it was determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required. National Quarries, as stated in the CEC Rules, had the opportunity to comment on the Terms of Reference for the EIA. The EMA and National Quarries then had to reach a consensus for the final Terms of Reference. The EMA was responsible for verifying the pertinent information stated in the application by studying the information supplied by National Quarries and conducting site visits.
Dr Singh explained: “The Verdant Vale Limestone Quarry located in Blanchisseuse was acquired by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through the then Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries in 1997. “Prior to this, the location known as Scott’s Quarry, was also used for quarrying. On January 27, 2000, preceding the CEC Rules, the Ministry of Energy granted National Quarries a single licence for the purpose of mining for approximately 119.50 acres of State lands, situated at Blanchisseuse Road, Verdant Vale.”
Dr Singh said when National Quarries began work in 2006/2007, the initial CEC application to the EMA stated that they were applying for 230-260 acres. The EMA determined that National Quarries needed to do an EIA and issued a draft Terms of Reference for this EIA. The EMA also notified National Quarries that further clarification was needed for information they had supplied regarding the acreage stated on their cadastral sheet and the actual licence granted to them by the Ministry of Energy. National Quarries then confirmed that the correct figure was 112 acres and not 230-260 as previously stated.
“The EMA was so careful in our approach that we also sought to verify that the acreage of 112 acres was accurate,” Dr Singh said. He said the EMA saw that the National Quarries Survey Plan showed the actual acreage was 117.6 acres and wrote to National Quarries for verification of this actual figure. When no timely verification was received from National Quarries, the EMA contacted officials at the Minerals Division of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries who informed the EMA that the figure they had on record was 119.5 acres.
Dr Singh further clarified that during the time that the CEC was being processed the Amendments to the CEC Designated Activities Order for Activities 8 and 23 occurred without the EMA’s prior knowledge. The new order stated that only quarries over 150 acres and land clearing activities for non-mining purposes would require CECs, therefore the CEC for which the National Quarries was applying for was no longer applicable.
The EMA therefore had to write to National Quarries stating that due to the amended order the EMA could not continue to process the application, but would still be exercising its mandate to monitor via the Water Pollution Rules. “The EMA’s process for CEC applications is extremely meticulous in nature, since all CECs issued and EIAs conducted are accessible to the public via the National Register and all decisions made can be challenged in Court.
“Therefore, it goes without saying that if the EMA receives a CEC application for a quarry over 150 acres, it would no doubt be processed and allegations otherwise would be erroneous.” Dr Singh said he pleased at Housing and Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal’s statement that all quarries will now be regulated by the EMA. He said he is confident the minister will provide the EMA with the necessary means to do this job effectively.
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