The National Quarries Company owes Government some $40 million in royalties, but it has begun paying its debt, which includes business levy and contributions to the Green Fund, says chairman Ulric Warner.
The Joint Select Committee on State Enterprises inquiring into the business operations of National Quarries heard that quarry operators owe over $120 million in royalties to Government.
Warner told the JSC that when the board he chairs took office two years ago, the company was in a “dark place” and owed some $38 million in royalties.
Since taking office, he said, the company decided to meet its financial commitments and has paid $5.4 million of the debt it owed in royalties. On the Green Fund and business levy it owes, he said, “We will address all of that by the end of this financial year.”
However, the company will not be able to pay off the $40 million at one time, but will do so incrementally, he said. “We are not going to let it pile up.”
Committee member Wade Mark noted that at 2015 the royalties owed were $120 million and questioned what Government was dong to recover those sums.
Director, Minerals, Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries Monty Beharry said the ministry has been actively pursuing collection of the debts. At the end of fiscal 2015, he said, $4.134 million was collected. In 2016 the sum collected was $5.125 million and in $2017 it was $8.298 million. “We have started increased collection from royalties and licence fees,” he said. Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries Selwyn Lashley said that at present the issue of rights to the lands being quarried was holding up the process of collection. This matter, he said, was being addressed in conjunction with the Chief State Solicitor. Once certain, he said, the ministry will be able to know the extent of liabilities quarrying companies owe Government.
Meanwhile, Sherwin Long, head of the TT Extractive Industries Transparency Institute secretariat, said that with proper monitoring, Government could rake in over $233 million in royalties annually from the 88 active mining operations, and at present only five mining companies, including National Quarries, take part in the EITI process. When the auditors examined fees due government, he said, at 2015, the sum of $141 million was owed in licence fees, rehabilitation bonds and performance bonds. The $141 million excluded royalties owed. At present there are 42 licensed operators, 46 unlicensed, including National Quarries, with renewals being processed. There are also 62 processing plants operating without licences.