The Jamaican government has ordered China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the contractor for the Timehri airport expansion project here, to cease its illegal quarrying operations on the island.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner, the Mines and Geology Division of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining shut down the CHEC quarry after a site visit last Tuesday. The Jamaica Gleaner yesterday reported that since late last year, CHEC has been illegally quarrying hillsides on lands the company purchased in that area without approval from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and other entities.
It was reported that this was not the first stop order issued to CHEC for illegal quarrying.
The company argued that it was in fact the state agencies that were prolonging the approval process. The Gleaner reported that the Water Resources Authority (WRA) will be investigating if there has been any damage to the natural water sources due to the mining.
CHEC has been at the centre of controversy in Guyana ever since it was announced in the Jamaica media in November 2011 that it was selected for a huge expansion project for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri. The US$138M project was hurriedly put together during the visit of a senior Chinese government official to the Caribbean as monies for several projects in the region was available.
The first inkling of the project was carried by the Jamaica Observer on November 18, 2011 and then posted on the Stabroek News website the same morning.
The deal was signed on November 11, 2011, 17 days before general elections that year.
Questions have been raised about the quality of the contract drawn up between the government here and CHEC and in recent years, the opposition has cut funding for the project because of ongoing concerns. Work is however still continuing on the project.
It is unclear where the money is coming from. CHEC has also had skirmishes with squatters in the Timehri area who have refused to move to facilitate the expansion works.
Chinese companies in the Caribbean are attracting a reputation for targeting natural resources.
In Guyana, controversial Chinese forest company Baishanlin was accused of illegally mining laterite at Moblissa, Region 10 and it ignored several cease orders issued against it by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.
While it was given a licence for logging, Baishanlin in 2013 had been removing laterite—a soil type rich in iron and aluminium—from Moblissa for the construction of a two-mile road at Bamia.
It is unclear whether any penalty was applied.