An illegal quarrying operation in Ricki Trace, Ravine Sable, Longdenville, has been shut down by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
The illegal operation was highlighted in an investigative story published in the Sunday Guardian on September 5.
Owners of the unlicenced operation were quarrying red sand, for close to a decade, on privately-owned land and state-owned land.
However, in the immediate aftermath of the investigative story, work on the site stopped, according to residents.
Five days after the story was published, on September 10, the EMA ’s Response and Investigations Unit participated in a multi-agency investigation, with a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service multi-agency task force, and the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, at the quarrying site in Ravine Sable.
According to the EMA, “On the day of the site visit, there was neither any work in progress nor any person present on the site.
“This is an ongoing investigation and the EMA is assisting the agencies with responsibility for illegal quarrying in addressing the matter.”
On a visit to the site in the first week of September, there were several trucks and an excavator on site, removing material.
According to Ravine Sable residents, they made formal complaints over the years to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, as well as the Environmental Management Authority, but the illegal activity continued.
Guardian Media’s investigations revealed that the operation was earning as much as $250,000 per week, untaxed, by selling the material to contractors.
One square yard of red sand at the operation’s stockpile, we were informed, sells for, at least, $100.
Licenced hardware stores are selling the construction aggregate for as much as $350 per square yard.
“Yes, the EMA came down that day with soldiers. Look how long I have been calling them to come down here and stop this. I told them, ‘Like it’s only when media gets involved that something is done,’’’ contractor and resident Donny Parasram Sookdeo said in a phone interview.
According to Sookdeo, the quarriers began excavating land he owns several years ago.
However, his attempts to get them to stop, through formal reports and conversations with the operation’s owners, only brought more trouble, he said.
“They sent four men–Rasta City men–for me in June 2016. This van was six months old. They shoot it up. I write it off. My life is at risk,” Sookdeo claimed in a previous interview with Sunday Guardian.
“They are violent and trouble is easy to come. I’m begging the authorities to intervene and shut down this...I have family, that’s why I am appealing to the law.”
Now, he said, he and other residents have long-awaited relief after close to two decades of quarrying in the area.
During that time, the operations wreaked havoc on the environment.
In 2010, the Ministry of Works and Transport was forced to do emergency work after quarrying by a private contractor caused a lake to form, also contributing significantly to the creation of a massive canyon.
The canyon threatened to erode the village’s land, with personnel from the Ministry of Works and Transport warning that a disaster loomed if immediate action was not taken.
An embankment was built, saving the village.
Additionally, then minister of works and transport Jack Warner demanded that quarrying in the area be stopped.
However, unlicenced quarrying continued all the way up until early September 2021.
There are fears among residents that if the illegal operation resumes, their village may again be under threat of another potential environmental disaster.
In recent years, material from the embankment, constructed in 2010, was removed by quarriers.
Residents have claimed that the water level of the lake in the area may be on the rise again.