What Is Mining?

Mining is the removal of sand, stone, gravel, and other minerals from their natural configuration, which may create environmental problems. Environmental problems occur when the rate of extraction of sand, gravel and other materials exceeds the rate at which natural processes generate these materials. The morphologies of the rivers and beaches have demonstrated the impact of mining with the prowess to destroy the cycle of ecosystems.

In Tobago, sea-sand and river mining are most common, as is traditional, where these materials are used for construction of buildings, paving of roads, etc. We have seen construction and infrastructure development on the island escalate and accelerate from 1980 to the present day. The end result is destruction of coast, beaches, and property.

Destruction of Tobago's beaches

During this period we have witnessed the destruction of Richmond Bay, Goldsborough, Turtle Beach, Kilgwyn and other notable small bays with vehicular access that became vulnerable to mining by backhoes and trucks and vans with bags. The effects will always be the same.

Turtle Beach / Courland Bay was the first to be hard hit as developments in the late 70s kicked off in the western part of the island. This led to the erosion of the western side of the beach, which is most prominent and evidently visible.

River mining at Goldsborough

After the closure of mining operations at Turtle Beach, activities were transferred to Goldsborough. The extracted material was used to supply the newly relocated batching plant and road paving plant. In spite of the expert claims that Studley Park quarry is able to supply all stones and aggregate necessary for Tobago's needs, mining at the Goldsborough River continues. Onlookers are horrified at the stark, silent and raped image that confronts them when that they view areas of Goldsborough river that have been subjected to mining. Mining has left a trail of erosion, flooding, turbidity and a general loss of natural composure of the area.

In 1985 Goldsborough Beach was closed to mining activities after there was observed a loss of vegetation, intrusion of saline water, open pits, exposed rocks and loss of beach recreation. With the closing of Goldsborough the operation was then shifted to Richmond, which resulted in significant erosion with impacts being comparable to Goldsborough. However, the mining operations at Richmond only lasted approximately two years.

Mining at Kilgwyn

Kilgwyn swamp also had her share of exploitation, with a concrete batching plant situated metres away obviously contributing to mining by other unscrupulous truckers. This beach was once one of the most used beaches for recreation, lauded for its clear shallow waters and great expanse of white sand.

Within recent times development has engulfed approximately half of the beach, with the other half being mined to facilitate the golf course and other infrastructure works at a particular large-scale development in southwest Tobago. In 1999 the Police seized eight trucks and the drivers were prosecuted after intensive work and investigation conducted by officers of the THA Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

This ghastly sight is so ungodly that any environmentalist or right thinking human will cringe, with the final deterrent being a gateway allowing only small vehicles, opening at 6:00 am and closing at 6:00 pm. Such extensive damage incurred to this area should be reason enough to establish appropriate legislation.

Controlling mining?

Some folks will argue that proper control techniques and restrictions (for example on duration and quantity) should minimize the environmental impacts of mining, but as far as is known the concerns go beyond that.

In 1986, a team of researchers from the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) embarked on a study of the near shore process of accretion and sedimentation at Richmond, Goldsborough, Queens and Bacolet Bay. The movement of sand at different times, tides and currents was monitored, so as to understand the process of replenishment. This exercise was completed with no added value.

Several alternatives to beach sand mining have being suggested by the Ministry of Energy, THA, and NGOs, including the importation of various grades of sand from Trinidad, Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana. Beaches and rivers are important to us and as a result should be protected from any kind of rape. - Carl Hector - Coastal Environmental Agent