Aerial survey to detect illegal quarrying approved

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Penelope  Bradshaw-Niles.  -
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Penelope Bradshaw-Niles. -

Government has sent out a letter of approval for an aerial survey of quarried lands, to determine which of the lands are being quarried illegally and which are licensed.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Penelope Bradshaw-Niles announced this as she answered questions during the 13th meeting of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday.

It was one of the areas where the Energy Ministry has responded to illegal quarrying since the last meeting in 2020, Bradshaw-Niles explained to the committee.

“We can look at the lands which are currently under licence and by elimination we will be able to determine which are quarried illegally,” she said.

She said the ministry has also increased collaboration with the Commissioner of State Lands and the police, as well as looking at ways of streamlining the process of obtaining a licence for quarrying.

“We came up with a comprehensive list of recommendations in terms of areas that should be revised,” she said.

She said it was currently before the Law Reform Commission at the office of the Attorney General and a new streamlined process for applications could be implemented this year.

Monty Beharry, director of minerals at the Ministry of Energy, said a multi-agency task force including several key ministries involving state lands, the TTPS and the TT Defence force, had responded to complaints of illegal quarrying.

“They were investigated, people were caught in the act and the TTPS is dealing with them at various stages,” he said.

Beharry was unable to give specific details of the number of quarry operations stopped and people arrested or charged, saying that information was in the hands of the head of the Inter Agency Task Force.

Responding to questions on the aerial photography from committee member Charrise Seepersad, Beharry said the last aerial photography done to identify quarrying lands was in 2014. He explained that the ministry does not have the technology to do the photography itself, and it has to be resourced.

“We, however, use Google Earth, which is basically free software,” Beharry said. “The challenge with that is that we don’t have control of the dates that the images are taken, so we basically use free available images that are limited by the dates that are available.”

He said the aerial survey being tendered now would help with getting a baseline overview of the lands being quarried, whether legally or illegally.

“That would help us with many of the questions being raised in these documents as to the extent of illegal quarrying, (and) the estimated revenue possibly lost. Once we have that data, it should be able to assist us.”


"Aerial survey to detect illegal quarrying approved"

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