Bartica gets permission to resume sand pit operations for three months

Gifford Marshall

The Bartica municipality has been granted permission to temporarily resume operations at the township’s Five Miles, Potaro Road sand pit, according to Mayor Gifford Marshall, who says the stoppage due to safety breaches was a major blow to the local economy.

According to a letter from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to the Bartica Town Council, which was seen by Stabroek News, permission was granted for the sand pit to continue temporary operations for three months.

“Due to the demand and necessity of sand for infrastructural and housing developments within the Bartica community, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission has decided to negotiate in good faith and the Commissioner, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission has decided to grant a temporary Sand Mining Permit to the Bartica Town Council,” the letter stated, while adding that operations are still to be conducted in accordance with the Mining Act and Mining Regulations, with special emphasis being placed on mine safety.

The sheer drop sand pit with unstable overburden at Five Miles (Department of Public Information photo)

Unlike other sand mining operations, the Five Miles sand pit is not owned by any company or individual and its operations were supervised by Neighbourhood Democratic Council and then the Town Council. However, Marshall pointed out that the council has applied for the sand mining permit that will make it the legal owner of the land and the operations.

The letter also noted that the Town Council is required to make contact with the Land Management Department of the GGMC and to continue to pursue the application process, including submission of the Boundaries of the Sand Mining Permit along with No Objection Letters from the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Speaking to Stabroek News this week, Marshall explained that the 53-day closure of the sand pit over several safety infractions was a major economic blow to the town’s economy as government and regional contracts were put on hold. “Dozens of block makers, masons, carpenters and truck operators were affected while residents who had commitments to commercial banks were devastated by the closure. As Mayor, it is my opinion that the GGMC did not anticipate the intended consequences,” he said, while admitting that the sand pit has a long history of issues, dating back over two decades, which include erosion, garbage disposal, squatting and illegal mining.

Marshall noted that the municipality has been making stringent efforts over the last two years to address the environmental issues at the site but noted that it could not solve all of its problems since they do not have the necessary resources.

As a result, he said that they want the support of the regulatory body, which has the financial and human resources, to build the capacity of the municipality for the benefit of its people. “In addition, we are confident that the commissioner and the Honourable Minister [of Natural Resources] will do all in their power to support the municipality, ensuring that a once blossoming relationship is restored. I wish to commend their leadership in this crisis and applaud their efforts, which led to the reopening of the mining pit,” Marshall said.

He added that the restart of operations will see an end to persons loading trucks manually, the redesigning of the sand pit roads to include an entrance and an exit along with the placement of monitor on the site for enforcement of the rules. “These are additional systems introduced by the council in addition to those demanded by the GGMC which included benching of the sand pit wall. Further, following consultations with residents and truck operators, we can see very soon the areas of the pit being converted into a green space.

The proposed green space will consist of a playfield, which will be the first on the One to Five Miles road and a protected area that can be used for biodiversity studies,” Marshall said.

He explained that while the size of the pit is over eight acres, they have already mined out approximately four acres. As a result, he said that they will be “re-greening and restoring” all the mined out areas.

The replanting of trees and rehabilitation of a nearby creek is to also be undertaken.

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