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By Theresa Goodwin

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Parliamentary Representative for the St Mary’s North Constituency Sir Molwyn Joseph said he is in consultation with the Public Works Department to address a number of concerns raised by the residents of Bendals community about the operation of quarries in the area.

For quite some time, the residents have been complaining about the excessive dust emanating from mining work, especially at the government quarry which appears to be operating both day and night.

Those concerns have intensified as talks surfaced about the intention of the government to add another quarry to the four existing ones within the community, to mine for aggregates.

The minister confirmed that he is fully aware of the concerns which were fully ventilated by community members at a recent meeting that was held at the SR Olivia David Primary School.

“I am in regular consultation with the Ministry of Works about those and other developments in the Bendals community. I am hoping that not too far in the future I will be able to respond with more specifics after consulting with the Public Works Department,” the MP said.

Secretary of the Bendals Community Group Linley Winter told a news conference on Friday that the group wrote to Joseph, who is also country’s health minister, requesting a meeting to discuss the issues.

During the February 1st meeting at the minister’s office, it was agreed that all quarries should be managed in a manner that limits significantly the amount of dust emissions they contribute, consultations with the community would be done if any new quarry operations would be established in order to apprise villagers on how such operation may likely impact them, among other issues.

The talks also centred around the establishment of the Greencastle National Park, demarcating of a clear boundary for current mining operators to preserve the area and its artefacts which are of historical and archaeological importance.

“We do not take the position that the community should be able to sacrifice another part of its landscape for such activities. There are several mining operations within the community, there have also been several abandoned areas which have been exhausted,” Winter said.

“People’s lives are affected positively or negatively and we have to be mindful that we need to do as much as possible to ensure that the quarries are operated in such a manner that the impact is minimised. For several months many people have observed that the government’s quarry has been operating day and night and mostly people are directly affected by the governments quarry.”

Winter stressed that the concerns are not just for the residents, but for the health of the quarry workers as well.

He stated further that subsequently to the February 1st meeting, the group sent a summary of the minutes to the minister and are still awaiting a reply.

Winter said they are bit troubled by this, particularly because those talks ended on a cordial note although there was a difference of opinion in some areas.

He is hopeful that all the relevant authorities and members of the community will be able to find common ground as they seek to achieve a “sustainable approach towards the operation of quarries in the Bendals Community, inclusive of a uniformed guideline for the safety of workers and residents alike”.

Meanwhile, MP Joseph maintains that he is committed to getting the issues addressed and will be updating the community in short order.

He emphasised that periodic meetings are held with the entire community and not a just a single entity.