Government Ministers and representatives from relevant state entities yesterday, February 3, sat down with residents of some North Leeward communities to provide information on a stone quarry that is soon be located at Richmond.
And while residents, whose livelihoods will be adversely affected, say they are in full support of the project, they were equally dissatisfied at the manner in which it was thrust upon them.
Around 50 residents of Chateaubelair and Fitz Hughes turned up at the Chateaubelair Government School to receive information and air their views about the quarry which will be operated by Reyneau Gajadhar, CEO of the RG Group of Companies, of St Lucia.
Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar and Parliamentary Representative for North Leeward, Tourism minister, Carlos James addressed the meeting and told the residents that farmers, along with harvesters of tri tri will be compensated.
He said persons who mine gravel on the Richmond Beach will not be affected by the establishment of the quarry, neither will be farmers on the Cartal side of the mountain; and that the mangroves will be protected.
Caesar said that the investors had met all legal requirements, and when questioned as to the availability of the report from the Environmental Impact Assessment Study, he said that it could be accessed from the Ministry of Agriculture.
He explained that the meeting was being held at this time because there was technical work that had to be completed
Also present at the meeting was Richard Branch, representing RG Group of Companies of St Lucia,, other government officials and representatives from the Medicinal Cannabis Authority.
Minister James told those gathered for the meeting that he had paid his own way to St Lucia to see firsthand the operations of RG Group of Companies, adding that this was important because he wanted to know about the investor coming into his constituency.
He spoke of the assurances given by the investor in a number of areas such as the construction of a pier with changes to the original design to accommodate pleasure craft and fishing vessels.
James said that he understands the concerns regarding the environmental impact of the quarry, but that RG Group of Companies had met all the requirements.
And, Branch, a member of the local management set-up said that the quarry will not be starting operations for another six to 12 months.
Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves speaking about the quarry development on NBC Radio last Wednesday, January 2 appealed to the affected farmers to have some patience.
“I want them to know that as always, we will deal quite fairly with the farmers. These are farmers who have leased land from the Government.
Some of them are quite good farmers, very good hardworking people,” he said.
“…For those persons who would be affected, I just want to tell them just have a little patience with us. As always, we deal with these things.”
The prime minister explained that there had been an earlier proposal “from some French people” which “didn’t get very far, but there had already been environmental impact studies and all of those things and then there are some new investors, out of St Lucia.”
He said it was the Ministry of Works, previously headed by Senator Julian Francis and currently headed by Montgomery Daniel which has been pushing the quarry project.
He also spoke about the difficulties encountered in previous attempts to locate a quarry and underscored its importance to the government’s capital programme.
“We need very badly, this particular quarry because a lot of the capital projects are being held up because we don’t have the material for construction of roads, and big capital projects and also housing. Everywhere you go, people for environmental reasons don’t want to have a quarry,” Gonsalves said.
He referred specifically to efforts to locate a quarry at Gibson Corner noting that “…the people who live downwind at Montrose objected”.
“Every time you want to put down any plant, you have difficulties,” he pointed out, adding, “…apparently there is a big set of quarry material to be mined down there [Richmond] and it doesn’t create the problems with people who are living nearby, but it creates a difficulty with farmers who have leased lands”.
He therefore pointed to the need for dialogue with farmers as a matter of urgency before “this thing can go on.”
“Naturally, people will get compensation for their crops; there is no question about that. But it would be good to see if we can get alternative locations in respect of any lands…,”Gonsalves promised.
Work to clear lands to enable access to the area where the quarry will be sited, is said to have begun last Saturday, January 29, one day after the St Lucia operators received final permission from local Planning Authorities to proceed with their operation.