Tuesday 19 September, 2017

Rambharat: No indication of red sand shortage

Government is seeking to regularise sandpit mining following reports of an alleged red sand shortage across the country.

Speaking at the Post Cabinet media briefing, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the current situation was due to the actions of the previous administration, where sandpits were mined without licences or leases.

Rambharat responded to claims from former minister of agriculture Dr Roodal Moonilal that “incompetence”, “rampant mismanagement” and “absence of priorities” of the current PNM administration led to the difficulties in sourcing red sand reportedly being experienced by suppliers across the country.  

He said that under the previous administration, mining licences were granted through the Estate Management Business Development Corporation Ltd (EMBD) to six operators without proper documentation.

The Minister explained that it was under Moonilal’s watch that this happened in 2015, just hours before the September 7 General Election was announced.

The former minister and administration would have been aware that the sandpits were operating without mining licences, he added.

Government has been unable to locate requests for proposal (RFPs), tenders, bid documents or EMBD Board decisions related to the tendering process which allowed these contractors to operate on the land.

As a result, Government is now working to regularise the status of these and other sandpits, with the EMBD to issue an RFP soon which will be open to all bidders interested in operating sandpits.

The Energy Ministry’s Minerals Division will operate these sandpits on a legal basis through grants of mining licenses and the process will be supervised by the EMBD.

Operating hours for these sandpits will also be established, in an effort to prevent disturbance to residents who live near these mining zones.

Rambharat also revealed that the EMBD is in the process of modernising the existing payment scale.

Currently, operators currently pay a flat fee but under the new system, will be made to pay a rate based on the volume of sand extracted.

Additionally, the EMBD is also working with the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) to determine the requirements of the construction sector over the coming months as Government construction is expected to create a further demand on supply.

Regarding former minister Moonilal’s claims of a red sand shortage, Rambharat the EMBD has been furnished with no information from the T&T Contractors Association pointing to the existence of such.