ENVIRONMENTAL activist Wayne Kublalsingh said yesterday any decision by Government to mine tar sand in southwest Trinidad could mean the end of their time in office.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on her return from the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia last week, said her Government was looking into the exploitation of tar sand deposits in South Trinidad and she had spoken to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about lending his country's expertise.
The extraction and processing of tar sand (also called 'oil sand' and 'bituminous sand') is a controversial environmental issue in countries where it is practised, such as Canada, where it is mined extensively.
With oil reserves around the globe running out, tar sand is considered one of the next big 'deposits' of petroleum and the Express understands this country could stand to double its oil 'reserves' should the tar sand deposits be counted in.
The extraction of this oil from its earth-bound host is, however, highly destructive to the environment and is usually also thought of as too expensive to be worth it.
As reserves dwindle, this view is changing and tar sand has become more attractive.
Kublalsingh said at the weekend that the population must be made aware of the highly destructive nature of tar sand mining.
"I have been told that there are foreign and local proposals before the Ministry of Energy to mine the tar sand deposit in the south," Kublalsingh said.
"However, if the Government were to proceed with this, they will fall.
"I was told that the Government was considering extraction by means of horizontal drilling, as this was considered to be more environmentally friendly but I found this to be fallacious."
Kublalsingh said the level of destruction this type of activity will bring to the soil, water and forested area around the deposit is unprecedented.
Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine could not be reached for comment on his ministry's intention to pursue tar sand extraction.
Canadian activist and tar sand blogger, McDonald Stainsby, who is currently in Trinidad, has visited this country several times since 2009, when then energy minister, Conrad Enill, also spoke of the possibility of mining tar sand.
"I originally was very concerned that a form of development in Trinidad and Tobago that has caused so much pain to people in Canada—particularly those I know who are sick or worse, and blame tar sands extraction—may come to this wonderful country without people being aware of how different and dangerous it is from conventional oil developments," said Stainsby, whose website, http://oilsandstruth.org, is dedicated to providing information on tar sand.
"Trinidadians obviously need no one to tell them what to do, but like everyone on the planet, you have a right to know all sides of such a crucial story that may be about the future of this country."
In the extraction of tar sand, two to four tonnes of earth are excavated to produce one barrel of oil. This required up to five barrels of fresh water and the synthetic oil produced emits three times more carbon emissions than does processing an equal amount of conventional land based oil. The process also requires large quantities of natural gas.
Stainsby said that people living around tar sand mining in Canada have begun to show higher incidences of rare cancers.
Head of the local environmental group Earthwise Ltd, Kyle de Lima, said:
"I became extremely nervous when I heard that our Government is pushing so hard to commit us to 25-50 years of a technology that leaves millions of gallons of fresh water contaminated for generations."
Land and water contaminated by the effects of tar sand mining cannot be used for up to six hundred years or more, De Lima said.
The public is been invited to attend a seminar on tar sand, to be held by Earthwise Ltd on Thursday at Montrose Plaza, at 6.30 p.m., where Stainsby will be the feature speaker.