Sand mining is a practice that is becoming an environmental issue for St. Kitts and Nevis over the past decade, as the demand for sand increases in industry and construction. The sand removed from some of these protected areas and beaches are often used in manufacturing as an abrasive, for example, and it is also used to make concrete.
According to research, sand mining is a direct and obvious cause of erosion, and also impacts the local wildlife. For example, sea turtles depend on sandy beaches for their nesting.
On Thursday 10th February MiyVue.com and other members of the media were taken on a tour of Bakers Point, Canada Beach to get a first hand view of the serious environmental damage caused by illegal sand-mining.
During the tour it was revealed by Conservation Officer at the Department of Physical Planning and Environment, Andy Blanchette, that sand mining is regulated by law, but is still often done illegally.
“However, that there are penalties for illegal sand-mining,” Blanchette explained.
“The national conservation and environmental protection act speaks to the fact that for anyone caught mining sand illegally, there is a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment of up to a year or more if and when convicted.
“What has happened is that at the Department of Physical Planning and Environment, there is a group of guys who do constant monitoring of sand mining and we pay particular attention to the illegal aspect of it. There are some operations of it that are authorised which we are aware of. But the illegal aspect of it, when we monitor the operation, at times, in coming into the field, we will need equipment in areas that are not designated as sand mining sites and that is how we know that it’s an illegal operation,” he added.
Mr. Blanchette also explained the process of capturing evidence for those who are involved in the illegal activity.
“What we normally do, we take pictures of the equipment that is there, we try to ascertain the owners and who would have given them authority.”
“The thing though is that, when all is said and done, in terms of our investigations and we realize that we have a case that we can forward, the process is so long because we, as a government entity, have to go through the Attorney General’s office in order to lead on a prosecution from a government’s perspective,” the Conservation Officer said.
Because of the legal process, it was also revealed that a number of perpetrators have escaped the full length of the law.
“A few years ago, we would have captured sufficient evidence that can lead to the prosecution of an individual who I would not disclose at this moment. And somewhere along the line, because of the lengthy period in the process, it appeared as if nothing was being done, but my understanding from the head of the department is that recently, there was some (revisiting) to that case from the Attorney General’s Office and we are hoping that something can come out of it.”
“I am not sure if from where I stand or maybe (where) the Department stands, that we can do anything to speed up the process but maybe to constantly remind the office that we would like to see some action or to at least send a message to perpetrators…” Blanchette stated.