Grenada’s two months old New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will turn to beach sand mining on the island in an effort to boost the local construction industry.
This was disclosed last week Thursday by Works Minister, Gregory Bowen in his contribution to the debate on the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure.
According to Bowen, sand mining activities will return in at least three locations on mainland Grenada and one for Carriacou and Petite Martinique for better accessibility to consumers.
“The ministry has already engaged our counterparts – agriculture and environment to work with us to identify the areas that we can sustainably remove sand Mr. Speaker, and the intention is to have at least three locations distributed islandwide so that a resident from St. Mark’s will not have to come all the way to St. George but will have an area or a source close”, he said.
The mining of local beach sand was halted in January 2009 by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
The NDC administration took the decision in the face of pressures from environmental groups, as well as the high cost involved in constructing sea defense walls due to constant erosion of lands near the sea.
However, the high cost of importing sand to Grenada from Guyana since 2009 was seen as one of the major drawbacks to the construction industry as many complained that the cost of imported sand far exceeded that paid locally.
The lost of revenue from local beach sand mining also impacted heavily on the revenues of the state-owned Gravel Concrete and Emulsion Production Corporation.
A group of 55 workers of the corporation last year engaged in industrial actions after receiving letters of temporary layoffs in the face of recession hitting the local industry.
Gravel & Concrete also disclosed that the demand for its products plunged by over 50% in some areas and revenue was constantly on the decline.
The Corporation announced that it was failing to meet its loan obligations and defaulted on a major loan for eight (8) quarters.
The Congress government rescinded the layoff letters and allowed the 55 distressed employees to return to work.
Against this backdrop, the Corporation was granted access last December to remove excess sand buildup in excessive quantities in canals, drains and other areas where sand created challenges for property security or environmental concerns.
The areas permitted to remove sand were the security border fencing at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA), Mt. Rodney Bay canal, St Patrick, Busherie canal, St Patrick, Sauteurs Bay Lagoon, St Patrick and Bathway Lagoon, St Patrick.
Last week’s announcement by Minister Bowen on the return of beach sand mining is seen as yet another initiative by the NNP government aimed at boosting the construction industry.
In the budget presentation, Prime Minister Mitchell who is the Minister of Finance announced a reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) to 5% on imported sand, cement, roofing materials, steel, lumber and construction blocks, as well as the forego of VAT on construction services for projects valued at less than EC$400,000.00.
Government also said it was looking at ways to reduce the cost for a load of imported sand from $120 to $60.00 in order to further boost the construction industry.