|This is the southern boundary of land that has already been surveyed.|
|One of the ponds that remained after quarrying was done by NOVA in the Basil Jones Area. |
The San Pedro Sun broke the story in the Vol. 19 #15 issue dated April 17th, of a parcel of land, 50 acres in size, which had been leased to North Island Development Company (NIDC). The location had been approved for a quarry that would sit in the Basil Jones Area, located next to the defunct Nova shrimp farm north of San Pedro Town. Many were the concerns posed by various residents as to what the quarry activities might include and the impacts that they may have on the island.
Currently all construction materials such as gravel, stone, white marl, limestone, chippings and hardcore are barged to the island mostly from Belize City. Beside the limited amount that can be barged in at any given time, the cost of the product by the time it arrives on the island is at times triple the original cost. In many cases when the material is transported to the extreme north, the cost can get much higher.
As it stands, Manager for NIDC Fidel Ancona confirmed that although they have applied to the necessary government agencies for a Quarry Permit to carry out pertinent activities, it has yet to be approved. According to Ancona, NIDC does not foresee any major problems with their permits receiving the necessary approvals. The land has been secured, surveyed and the survey plans are authenticated. “It will take some three to four months before we can see any activity,” commented Ancona.
But what can be expected when quarry activities commence? Because the ground structure in the area is entirely rocky, quarrying will be simple. First, in the approved usage plot, which will be no more than five acres of land, the quarry company will drill small holes in strategic areas about five inches in diameter and about eight feet in depth. Within the holes, explosives (dynamite) will be plugged into the bed rocks and blasted simultaneously.
According to Geologist Michelle Alvarez, from the Ministry of Geology, the type of quarry activities that NIDC intends to use is one of the safest and best methods to quarry for material. “Plugging holes and blasting the bedrocks is proven to be less detrimental to the environment than blasting a hill,” stated Alvarez. “It is safer as it relates to possible work hazards and it is self contained in terms of environmental impacts,” she added.
In the application phase, Alvarez explained that procedure dictates that the applicant must provide a detailed plan as to how quarry activity will be conducted. Those plans should specify the amount of material to be extracted, proper demarcation of the total land to be used, size of area that will be approved in usage phases, and the entire project itself. Other requirements would include details on rehabilitation and aesthetic plans after each phase and after the entire project. Quarry activity will be approved by phases and before each usage portion is approved, the first area blast must show some form of rehabilitation or that it is in the process of being rehabilitated.
But what about the explosives and the underground effects they might have? Joe Fuzy, a quarry expert working in Belize for 35 years, stated that there are two main concerns. “The first concern is the effects the mining may have on fresh, underground water veins, which can either be good or bad,” stated Fuzy. He added that, “if there are any open fresh water veins, then they may be damaged depending on the depth. This could cause the vein to clog. However, if the water vein has been clogged after having been overused, [mining] may have the adverse effect and reopen.” The second concern is the poisonous fumes that explosives release directly after the blast. “The company must ensure that people are not living in the immediate area because the fumes of the blast can be a health hazard over a period of time,” stated Fuzy.
The land where quarry activity will take place is located 1,500 feet away from the beachfront. Ancona stated that actual blasting will be conducted 2,500 feet away from the beach. In addition, a maximum of 60% of the total leased land will be used for quarry activity and the other remaining untouched land will be used as part of the rehabilitation process. In one blast, NIDC will extract about 15 thousand cubic yards of material from an area the size of a football field. Blasting will be conducted by licensed experts. In terms of damages caused to any fresh water veins, no study in Belize has been conducted in order to ascertain the location of water veins in the country.
When the quarry begins operating, Ancona believes that they will provide the island’s residents with cheaper material for development, decrease the risks of damage caused to the reef by the heavy traffic of barges within the inner reef and will also provide the opportunity to improve the town’s infrastructure.