Government plans to attack the problem of illegal quarrying in TT head on. Energy Minister Franklin Khan made the disclosure at an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) ceremony at Tower C of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre, yesterday. Noting earlier comments by EITI Steering Committee chairman Victor Hart, Khan welcomed the committee's focus on the country's mining sector," and quarrying in particular."
Khan said there are a lot of issues regarding the lack of royalty payments, "by some of the mining operators if not all." The minister also said, "the issue of the proliferation of illegal quarries" remains a challenge for the country. To understand this reality, Khan advised his audience, "Take a flight to Tobago and look down and you will see the scars in the landscape of north-eastern TT."
He disclosed that he recently appointed, "a special advisor on security matters." Khan added, "We plan to deal with the issue of illegal quarrying frontally in the coming months." The minister said four EITI reports produced by the committee have shown extractive industries in TT have declared revenue payments of $114.69 billion. He said those same reports showed Government declaring corresponding receipts of $114.78 billion. After saying this meant almost 100 percent correlation between these figures, Khan quipped, "Thank God I am in government."
Khan said the MOU has been approved by Cabinet. However he added, "When these Cabinet notes are approved, especially legal documentation...quasi-legal documentation...it is always subject to final vetting from the Attorney General's Office. Saying this is standard government procedure, Khan said the final vetting of the MOU should be completed in two weeks time. After he said Guyana joined the EITI in August, Khan disclosed that he met on Monday with Guyana's Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman.
The minister provided no details but hinted there are, "extremely interesting discussions that are currently taking place between Guyana and TT." Khan said more information on this matter would be disclosed at a later date and in another forum. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has previously hinted that TT would be willing to partner with Guyana in developing that country's emerging energy sector. Negotiations between TT and Venezuela for the supply of natural gas from Venezuela's Dragon Field are also ongoing.