Illegal Quarry Operators Face $1M Fine in T&T

Il­le­gal min­ers for ag­gre­gate can face a hefty fine of near­ly $1 mil­lion as well as jail for up to sev­en years.

Of­fi­cials of the Min­istry of En­er­gy and En­er­gy In­dus­tries (MEEI) is­sued this warn­ing on the heels of two il­le­gal min­ing op­er­a­tions dis­cov­ered in the Ve­ga de Oropouche area in East Trinidad on Wednes­day.

No ar­rests were made in con­nec­tion to the il­le­gal quar­ries in the Five Acres area, but En­er­gy of­fi­cials said that any per­son who ex­plores for mines, process­es, im­ports or ex­ports any min­er­al with­out a li­cense is­sued by the MEEI, up­on first con­vic­tion would face a fine of $500,000 and im­pris­on­ment for five years. A sub­se­quent con­vic­tion would at­tract a fine of $700,000 and im­pris­on­ment for sev­en years.

Peo­ple who know­ing­ly pur­chase any ag­gre­gate from un­li­censed min­ing op­er­a­tors or trade in such min­er­al can al­so be ar­rest­ed and face a $500,000 fine and five years im­pris­on­ment.

“Elim­i­nat­ing il­le­gal quar­ry­ing is a top pri­or­i­ty for the min­istry and in this re­gard per­sons who com­mit the key of­fences are li­able, up­on con­vic­tion to the hefty fines and jail time as amend­ed pur­suant to the Min­er­als Act, Chap­ter 61:03 and the State Lands Act, Chap­ter 57:01.”

Un­der the State Lands Act, where the ma­te­r­i­al is dug and re­moved, a first con­vic­tion can face a $300,000 fine and three years im­pris­on­ment. For sub­se­quent con­vic­tions, the penal­ty would be in­creased to $500,000 and five years im­pris­on­ment.

Where ma­te­r­i­al oth­er than as­phalt is ex­tract­ed, up­on first con­vic­tion per­sons can face a $120,000 fine and one-year im­pris­on­ment. Sub­se­quent con­vic­tions $300,000 fine and three years im­pris­on­ment.

On Wednes­day, short­ly af­ter 11 am, the act­ing Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands Emeris Gar­raway-How­ell, a team from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Lands and Fish­eries ac­com­pa­nied by po­lice of­fi­cers swooped down on the two il­le­gal sites at Ve­ga de Oropouche.

The first il­le­gal site was re­port­ed to have been start­ed about two months ago, while the oth­er site at Five Acres was said to have been in op­er­a­tion for years with ac­tiv­i­ty tak­ing place main­ly at nights un­der “bright spot­lights.”

Gar­raway-How­ell sent a stern warn­ing to il­le­gal min­ers, “Stop what you are do­ing. I am on the job now. You can face hefty fines and im­pris­on­ment. We are go­ing to pre­vent and stop this type of ac­tiv­i­ty.”

“This is cor­rup­tion at its height…this is, in fact, steal­ing from the cof­fers of T&T,” she added.

Five ex­ca­va­tors and oth­er equip­ment found on both sites re­main un­der guard by po­lice of­fi­cers and mem­bers of the T&T De­fence Force.

A min­istry of­fi­cial, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied said that they were wait­ing on as­sis­tance from the Min­istry of Works and Trans­port to have the equip­ment re­moved to the TTDF’s Camp Cu­mu­to where it would be im­pound­ed.

How­ev­er, ac­cord­ing to a source, the equip­ment and tools can on­ly be im­pound­ed when peo­ple con­cerned are ar­rest­ed.

Min­istry of­fi­cials in­sist that is not the case. “We have mapped, GPS map­ping of State Lands and once a lo­ca­tion is deemed il­le­gal­ly oc­cu­pied, in this case, min­ing, once we move in we can seize and im­pound all equip­ment and ma­chin­ery and wait on who­ev­er to come for­ward and claim it. But in most cas­es, these peo­ple who en­gage in il­le­gal min­ing pre­fer to count their loss­es rather than to face hefty fines and jail time.”

The Min­istry is ap­peal­ing to any­one with in­for­ma­tion on il­le­gal quar­ry­ing sites to con­tact the Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands of­fice at 625-0427 or (868) 627-9201/4; the MEEI at 225- 4EEI (4334); 482-GARY; 800 TIPS; 999; 555 or the near­est po­lice sta­tion.