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NEPA says Duncans Bay sand-mining operation legal

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014    

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DUNCAN'S BAY, Trelawny — Land developer and former member of parliament for North Trelawny Keith Russell has defended his sand-mining operation in the upscale Duncan's Bay Beach area of the parish.

"We have all our permits and licences from NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency), and we are complying with them totally," Russell told the Jamaica Observer last night. He, however, declined to give details about the scope of the work.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), in a release, said it had received several reports from members of the public of a large beach sand-mining operation in Trelawny, west of Duncan's Bay Beach and Silver Sands. It alleged that dozens of truckloads of sand have been removed from the coastline over a period of at least three days last week, but may have been going on for much longer.

According to the environmental group, it was unclear whether this operation had received an environmental permit or a beach licence from the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), or any oversight at all from NEPA.

Residents in the Duncan's Bay area also expressed concern about the operation. They argued that the removal of sand from the area could result in the erosion of the beach.

"We want this operation to stop because if you take away the beach sand it will ruin the beach," said one resident.

But last night, NEPA's CEO Peter Knight stressed that Russell is in possession of a "perfectly legal mining licence" from the Mines and Geology Division of the Ministry of Agriculture.

"There is a Quarry Management Committee and the gentleman's application was taken and discussed at the committee, where one of my directors sits. NEPA gave no objection and the man got a mining licence," Knight explained.

"As far as I know, he had to meet a lot of stipulations, including management plan. And as far as I know, the activity is being managed by the Mines and Geology Division, which granted the licence," he added.

Meanwhile, JET has called on the Government to immediately release full information on the sand-mining operation, which should include the names of person(s) carrying out the operation; type of permission granted; where sand was sent to; and what enforcement action, if any, is appropriate, or had been taken. .

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