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Tougher penalties coming for illegal mining

By Kim Boodram

THE Ministry of Energy yesterday warned of increased penalties for illegal mining and the purchase of illegal aggregate in a full-page newspaper advertisement.
New fines were announced two weeks ago by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, who said illegal operators were taking home up to $150,000 a day.
Express investigative reporter Anika Gumbs also reported last Sunday that the Government’s San Fernando to Point Fortin mega-project was using illegal aggregate from the Matura area.
Yesterday’s notice stated that upon first conviction a fine of $500,000 and up to five years imprisonment could be imposed on anyone who mines, explores for mines, processes, imports or exports aggregate without a licence from the ministry.
Upon subsequent conviction, a fine of $700,000 and seven years’ imprisonment is possible.
A person who purchases from an illegal miner or fails to notify the ministry of the discovery of minerals not authorised by his licence, or obstructs the Director of Minerals, is liable to a fine of $500,000 and five years’ imprisonment.
A person who otherwise contravenes the Minerals Act is liable to a fine of $200,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
There are 47 licensed quarry operators at present, the ministry stated.
Most of the illegal activities are clustered in North East Trinidad, especially in the Valencia and Matura areas.
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