Sand miners have received the green light to begin working in the Upper Belham Valley.
On Tuesday afternoon, Minister of Agriculture Crenston Buffonge announced that sandmining in Zone V can now formally take place.
“The sand mining industry is considered a key sector for the Government of Montserrat. It is the main export commodity from Montserrat, and the industry employs over 60 persons, bringing in much needed foreign exchange. After months of discussions and working with several stakeholders, the process to rezone and legalize new areas for sand mining has been formalized and approved. My Ministry has ensured that all the required steps are in place to guarantee transparency and that all protocols will allow for safe and sustainable operations of the sand mining industry,” a statement from the minister read.
The minister shared that his ministry had taken the following actions throughout the process of approving the new location for mining of the deposits which came out of the Soufriere Hills Volcano over the 15 years of explosive eruptions.
• Mapping of the sand mining area for Zone V (Upper Belham).
• Marking and Signage of the Upper Limit for sand mining.
• Preparation and approval of Sand Protocols and Procedures to be followed by the Sand Miners.
• Refining the criteria for Health and Safety Plans to be submitted by Miners.
• The development of Environmental Guidelines for the monitoring of sand mining in the newly approved mining sites.
• Preparation and approval of a Sand Mining License which Miners will use to apply for permission to mine on Crown Lands.
• Stakeholder meetings with the Sand Miners and Landowners.
• Site visit into the area with Sand Miners to provide guidance.
“With those protocols in place, the Sand Miners are now applying for Licenses and planning permission from the Planning & Development Authority (PDA). Additionally, all Sand Miners will also need to make formal applications for Permits from the DMCA to Enter Zone V. This process has been a long one, but I am very proud to say that we have achieved the goal. This achievement could not have taken place without the input and cooperation of several individuals, departments, and stakeholders,” explained the minister.
He acknowledged the efforts of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & the Environment, Mrs. Beverley Mendes and the team she assembled within the Ministry to lead the effort. The team comprised staff from the Montserrat Land Development Authority, the Lands & Survey Department, Physical Planning Unit, GIS Unit, and the Department of the Environment.
Buffonge extended special thanks to the sand miners for their input at the meetings that were held to progress the approval.
“To the Montserrat Volcano Observatory for the in-depth Risk Assessments and Recommendations; to the Director and staff of the DMCA, the Hon Attorney General’s Chambers and to the Landowners, I appreciate your input. This exercise was a long one, but together we have achieved progress. I look forward to sustainable, and risk-free sand mining operations in Upper Belham. The Ministry will now turn its attention to putting the necessary protocols and procedures in place for sand mining operations in Fort Ghaut. The Government of Montserrat will remain committed to providing the necessary support towards the continued success of the sand mining industry on the island,” the statement ended.