Govt working to open new sandpits beyond saturated Soesdyke/Linden highway – Min. Bharrat

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat

As Guyana continues to experience a boom in the construction sector, fueling the demand for sand, the Government of Guyana is looking to open up new sandpit mining areas beyond the already saturated Soesdyke/Linden Highway, as well as new and more innovative ways of transporting it.

In an interview with the Guyana Times on the sidelines of an open public day led by Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo at the Arthur Chung Conference Center (ACCC), Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat spoke about the government’s approach to sandpit mining.

Sandpit mining has for some time been heavily concentrated along the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, a situation the government is making an effort to change. According to him, they are looking to open new areas, to make room on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway for other developments.

“So, we’re looking at new areas. But I understand that most of the applications and most of the prospective miners, their preference is on the highway. You know how truckers and miners operate. They prefer to just turn into the highway and be able to access sand.”

“Now we’ve got to change that. Because the highway is developing too. You know the plans to develop Silica City and regularise some of the communities on the highway, that President Ali spoke of. All of that is happening right now,” Minister Bharrat said.

As far back as March, it had been announced that the government had put a halt to the granting of private sand pit licenses on the Highway. According to Bharrat, one issue is the fact that applicants have the wrong type of lease, inhibiting the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) from granting them permits.

“The demand has increased tremendously. And several people are trying to acquire sand mining permits on the highway. However, GGMC will not be in a position to issue a permit, if a no objection is not given by Lands and Surveys. What has happened is a lot of people have leases on the highway. But it is mostly agriculture leases. So GGMC cannot allow mining on an agriculture lease,” Bharrat explained.

Minister Bharrat also revealed that they want to encourage more persons in the industry to use barges as a means of transporting the sand. Not only is this approach more feasible but according to Bharrat, it is more profitable.

“So, it is difficult to have sand mining operations ongoing within close proximity to housing areas on the Linden/Soesdyke highway. So, we’re looking at other areas. So, it means now we may have to change the approach to sand mining.”

“Rather than trucking, some people may have to invest in barging sand down the river. Which, I must add, is far more feasible. Far more profitable. And it is better done by barging it down the river, than going through the congested traffic on the East Bank, with trucks.”

Minister Bharrat also noted that while the areas close to the Soesdyke Junction are in high demand for sand pit mining, this area is also the one earmarked for Silica City and further housing development.

Situated along the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, Silica City, the brainchild of President Dr. Irfaan Ali, will be Guyana’s first smart urban centre. Some 3,800 acres of land have been set aside for this Silica City project.

Additionally, infrastructural works are already underway, including the creation of 100 residential homes in addition to shopping centres, apartment complexes, condos, hotels, restaurants, and other facilities. Infrastructural works such as road and drainage networks are also ongoing.

The Silica City project aims to address the impacts of climate change and sea level rises, as well as issues associated with the growth of non-coastal urban settlements. The development is being monitored by the Central Housing and Planning Authority’s Projects Department. Minister within the Housing Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, has already said that the project is still in the first phase and that a further 10,000 acres of land will be developed for this project.