St. John’s Antigua- Two members of the Barbuda Council have expressed divergent views about the very same matter, leading to the question—is there or isn’t there sand mining still taking place on the sister isle?
According to opposition party member and council member, Arthur Nibbs, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
He added, “In my estimation, I will tell you it never stopped,” in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
In March, council members passed a resolution that would effectively end the 30-year practice of sand-mining in Barbuda. The resolution took effect on April 9. Sand-mining, at times, has brought in up to $5 million in revenue into Barbuda annually.
Nibbs also noted that the “majority of council members” were “alarmed” by the claim that mining is still taking place, despite the cessation, this during a council meeting held Tuesday evening.
He pointed to Council Chairman Kelvin Punter and deputy chairman of the council and chairman of the financial committee Fabian Jones, as the driving forces to continue mining. He said Jones, in particular, was “heavily involved in allowing the sand to move out.”
However, Fabian Jones said that what Barbudans are seeing leaving the country is not freshly mined sand, but rather, sand that had been stockpiled and was contracted to companies before the April cessation date.
“The council agreed to fill those orders, but there is still sand that is available and because people see barges leaving with sand, they think that whole mining is still going on,” Jones said. “I am clearly stating that the sand being removed, shipped presently, is sand that has been stocked piled.”
But Nibbs said, “we don’t buy” the assertion made in council meetings that mining might have to be resumed to clear debts and that his “investigation” has found that backlogs have been cleared.
“That is the hanky-panky thing that is going on. The debt should have been cleared but they still keeping saying that they still have more debt and I don’t believe that. I think that it is a way in which to continue the mining, so that that the council can just do what they want to do,” Nibbs said.
He also noted that Punter and Jones want to use mining as a tool to “pay salaries and wages,” to alleviate financial constraints that exist on island.
“What the council wanted to do was to save the stock of sand for our own use and development going forward. We ought to try to find some other ways and means of generating revenue rather than depending on sand mining,” Nibbs said.
When asked if the Council plans to resume sand-mining, Jones was circumspect, querying, “If one of the main revenue sources for the council is cut off (sand-mining), can we go to the government and say ‘listen we want you to pick up the slack?’ It is something that we need to address as soon as possible.”
A two-member committee has been assembled to look into the possibility of resuming sand-mining to eliminate debt owed to the sand-mining company. The report has not been completed to date.