“No new Quarry in the Maracas Valley!” This is the call of my community, Acono Village, which has suffered the consequences of irresponsible quarry practices for over 70 years. In the middle of a global pandemic and on the heels of a period of national lockdown, residents like myself of Maracas, St. Joseph are of the opinion that this quarry operator, who we have come up against in the past, is attempting to sneak back into our community.
About one month ago, we were met with notices from Kairi Consultants Limited, the company contracted to conduct the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) as part of the larger Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) required by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). We were informed that Blue Diamond Quarries Ltd was once again attempting to engage the community in consultation to establish a major limestone quarry on our only remaining untouched watershed, the La Caurita Watershed. Based on the map provided by Kairi, the proposed development will mine an even larger portion of land than the existing area – managed by Coosal’s Quarrying Operations – that has left a huge scar on the hillside.
This will be the third attempt by Blue Diamond Quarries to establish a quarry in our La Caurita watershed. In 2015, the developer applied for a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the EMA for the establishment of a facility for the mining and processing of limestone at the La Caurita Estate in Maracas, St. Joseph. The application was subsequently withdrawn for unknown reasons and another application was made in 2016 for the same activity.
In the 2016 attempt, the EMA determined that significant environmental impacts would most likely arise from this activity and as such, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be required. In September 2016 the developer, represented by Ecoengineering Consultants Limited, attempted to engage the community and was met with a unanimous stance against the quarry. Residents highlighted the extensive damage that the existing operator had imparted on our once beautiful Maracas Valley and Acono River. This unanimous stand stopped any further action from moving forward.
As Blue Diamond Quarries makes its third attempt, the community says they will once again come together united to stop any new quarrying in this already damaged watershed. Damage that we know has occurred after the existing operator also promised the community to adhere to “good quarrying practices” and “Corporate Social Responsibility”.
Residents of this community will tell you that our largest problem is the availability of water in the Valley. This problem, we believe, has been mainly caused by the irresponsible operation of the existing major limestone quarry in the Acono Watershed. The La Caurita watershed is the only untouched watershed serving the community and we believe that any new quarry will undoubtedly diminish the already inadequate water supply that we live with in the Maracas Valley.
Some of the other issues that our community deals with as direct results of the existing quarry include: the depletion of the Acono River that is currently polluted with Quarry waste; the dilapidated roads that see an average of twelve (12) dump trucks per day; and the proliferation of dust in the community caused by the daily movement of material out of the community.
Kairi Consultants held a small cottage meeting with some residents on November 28. Two subsequent meetings would be held on Saturday December 12 and Saturday, December 19 both starting at 4 pm, Caurita Road, Acono Village.
Note: Cari-Bois Environmental News will continue to cover this situation as it develops.