Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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Vincentians, Say No to The North Leeward Quarry!  

Chateaubelair – Castle of the beautiful air. 

When the explosions of the Rayneau Construction quarry in North Leeward begin, will this name still be relevant? Will it still be beautiful? What will the quality of life be like for farmers, fishers, residents in the heartland of the volcano country, on the foothills of La Soufriere, by the beautiful river of Richmond and the lush hills of Chateaubelair? What will the quality of air be like for the residents of Fitz Hughes, barely having recovered from the explosive volcanic eruptions of 2021?

We, the New Democratic Party (NDP), call on Vincentians to say NO to the approval granted to Rayneau’s quarry operation for 30 years!

Mining and other extractive industries are among the most destructive activities on the planet, especially for tourism and farming communities. Is quarry mining really the best developmental option for the Chateaubelair headland? Are we in desperate need of the quarry for the purposes of the construction industry that we sell our soul in the process? 

We demand that the ULP administration disclose the following to our nation:

  1. How much stone is expected to be mined annually by the Rayneau quarry?
  2. How much of that stone is required to meet local demand? 
  3. How much of that stone will be sold on the local market and at what rate?
  4. What benefit will SVG derive from the quarry over the next 30 years?
  5. How much of the funds generated will be re-directed towards the development of North Leeward, and the preservation of its natural heritage? 
  6. Why is the lease rate so much lower than the going lease rate in SVG and the rest of the East Caribbean? 
  7. Are our existing quarries owned and run by local business people not able to meet the local demand for aggregate?
  8. Did local business people apply for quarries in the North Leeward area before and were turned down and if so, why?

The Government argues that mining brings jobs, money, and investment in infrastructure. Residents of mining regions the world over have attested that the jobs brought by mining are few, and mostly limited to the construction phase of projects. The influx of resources promised by mining companies and governments are also few and far from what is promised. What mining towns are left with instead is environmental wreckage and health problems.

The lease to Rayneau Construction and Industrial Equipment Ltd is for 30 years and surrenders 58.8 acres of prime land. In 30 years, what will be left at the quarry site? An excavated, gutted landscape of nothingness. During those 30 years, shall we feel accomplished as we observe the transformation of this landscape to a wasteland? 

The eruption of La Soufriere brought international attention to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. North Leeward has now become a favourite weekend destination for many locals and visitors alike, curious to see the remains of the lava flow at Larakai, the new shape of the falls of Baleine and the newly discovered mineral falls. A landscape now overflowing with endless possibilities as an eco-tourism site is about to be destroyed. 

The La Soufriere National Park Several years ago, the National Trust recommended that the La Soufriere National Park be placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, as recommended by the SVG National Trust in 2012. If ever there was a time for the Government of SVG to declare La Soufriere as a national park for protection it is now. An NDP Government would ensure the designation of La Soufriere as a national park so that this part of our patrimony will be protected for all time and be part of our eco-tourism sustainable development goals that will generate tourism revenue for SVG. It is time for La Soufriere and its surrounding landscapes to be protected, not blown to pieces by a quarrying operation approved by the ULP administration. 

What conceivable reason could there be for this project to begin, with the bulldozing of roads through farmland and demolishing  of mature cocoa trees and other fruit trees, without giving consideration or notice to our farmers. What was the hurry, the hurry that caused basic courtesy of our dignified farmers to be sacrificed? We hear that the farmers will be given financial compensation. But can this compensation repair or justify destroyed livelihoods and lost dignity? Where is the public apology? The ULP administration needs to explain to us the citizens of this country the reasons for the haste in starting this project and the disrespect levelled at our citizens with the secretive dealings.

To add insult to injury, the export of the aggregate from the quarry site requires the building of a rock pier next to the important headland known as ‘Cavali Rock.’ This promontory is special for many reasons. It is easily accessible by residents of the area by simply walking to it from Richmond beach. From the rocks, one can cast out a fishing line and catch fish. It is such a special fishing spot that it is not only used by residents of North Leeward but also  from as far south as Layou. People of North Leeward have fished there for many generations. It is where memories were made between fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, neighbours and friends.

The rock is also a place where small vessels may pull up and drop off persons who wish to get to Richmond beach. It has served as a sort of local jetty over the years. This headland of Cavali Rock is iconic as it frames every photograph of the Chateubelair harbour and Richmond Bay. This rock must stand. It must not be destroyed and replaced with a pier of concrete or rocks as permitted by the ULP government.

Immediately off Cavali Rock is Cavali reef. This is one of the most vibrant reefs in the Richmond area and has been the favourite dive site of the Richmond Vale Academy (RVA) and others for many years. Videos from 2015 from RVA showcase the rich sea life that lies below the water at Cavali Reef. Cavali Reef must stay.

If there must be a jetty, it must be located away from the reef, away from this picturesque and much-used headland. The NDP firmly believes in the protection of our unique and special natural resources.

Rayneau Construction has already progressed with the building of a rock pier adjacent to Cavali Rock. Will this pier and all its commercial activity not effectively block access of the public to Cavali Rock? This pier and the industrial activity that will take place at the quarry are surely going to damage Cavali Reef and affect the livelihood of fishers who used Cavali Rock.

The rock pier being built is also likely to negatively affect the livelihoods of the local people who gather pebbles at Richmond beach for building material. Once again, artisanal local industries are being sacrificed and disregarded. 

The myths of progress associated with quarrying have been debunked – this ULP administration continues to fail us with their lack of creativity.

An NDP Government will be more creative and offer alternative economic and governing models.  We should be focused on ecotourism-based businesses in this area as sources of foreign investment. 

Rayneau Construction has stated without qualification, that its operation is “99% exportable and 1% for St. Vincent”. It means that the ULP government, acting with its eyes wide open, has sanctioned an enterprise that will literally rip up the flora, fauna, and soil; break, blow apart, excavate, ship, and sell abroad almost all of  the Vincentian land extracted under this scheme.

Is a quarry more important to the development of SVG than food security, than protecting our natural heritage?  Is taking away good farmland and allocating it to a foreign operated quarry the best for SVG? What kind of development do we want?  Is it a sensible developmental option in a country that has a land area of a mere 150 square miles to offer quarrying as an investment opportunity for external investors and for export? At stake is the cultural survival and well-being of our community, our environment, and our ability to make a living — now and for many years to come. 

The NDP says NO. 

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