The Government is owed $196 million by quarry operators, said the 12th Report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), on the Public Accounts of TT with reference to the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI), recently laid in Parliament.
“MEEI indicated that 56 quarry operators were delinquent in the submission of
outstanding royalty payments as at June 30 of which 25 operated on private lands whose mineral rights ownership were being determined. “The outstanding royalties was estimated to be $196,432,478 as at March 31, of which $110,763,824 was owed by operators on private lands.” The ministry has followed up with the other 31 quarry operators who were operating on State Lands to submit outstanding production data.
Royalties were supposed to be paid quarterly. The PAC report also indicated that most operators did not have licences.
Some 66 quarries were new applicants, 47 quarries had one-year expired licences, 35 quarries had expired five-year licences and only nine quarries had valid, current licences.
The report said in June 2015 the MEEI had told operators of new regulations detailing a new process to seek a mining licence. “However, to ensure that there was an adequate supply of aggregate to the local market at an affordable price, operators were allowed to continue without licences.” Meanwhile the ministry began a regularisation exercise, working with the companies in their licence renewal process, to be in line with the regulations. “The Ministry indicated that the process received push-back ( a negative response) from operators because the legislation outlined certain rates based on the type of quarrying and the scale of the operation.”
Some 24 operators with expired five-year licences and 27 operators with expired one-year licences applied for renewals. The applications were reviewed but for one operator still due to supply outstanding data to the MEEI.
The PAC gave its recommendations.
“The ministry should periodically conduct geological surveys and utilize LIDAR technology to reconcile the volume of material extracted from the particular site with the reported production figures submitted by the operators.
LIDAR is “Light Detecting And Ranging”, a remote-sensing method of using lasers to examine environments and generate a three-dimensional map of the place.
The report added, “The ministry should consider the use of weigh bridges at various locations in order to capture loads of materials moving out of a particular site and particular areas so that each load that is removed is documented by representatives of the Ministry on a 24 hour shift rotation.”
The PAC also called for a report to be sent to Parliament by February 28, 2018, on the status of initiatives to verify the accuracy of the production data supplied by quarry operators.
The report also urged a status update by February 8, 2018 on quarry operators’ compliance with the Environmental Management Authority.
“Of the 91 operational quarries, the Ministry indicated that only 35 quarry operators have submitted Certificates of Environmental Clearance (CECs) to the Ministry.” The PAC also had strong views on quarrying in its 12th Report on an Examination of the Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of TT, also laid in Parliament with the PAC’s 14th report.
“ Based on the Auditor General Department’s (AGD) summary of the Status of Operational Quarries, only seven out of 103 quarries were reported to be operating with a mining license”
However the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) disclosed that the process to become a licensed quarry owner/operator was “extremely onerous and time consuming”.
The AGD said operators are being helped with the licensing process.
The PAC had a recommendation. “The entire process involved to attain a mining license should be mapped from start to finish, re-evaluated and improvements inserted to speed up the process of granting licenses.” This process should be documented and given to anyone wishing to become a quarry operator, and be done by February 28, 2018.
“All quarry operators should have in their possession a license to operate,” said the PAC. “There should be no unlicensed operators quarrying in Trinidad and Tobago. All licenced operators should pay their fair share of taxes and royalties to the state.” The PAC urged the ministry to report to Parliament on the status of the initiatives by February.