At the sitting of parliament on Thursday 5th May, members of the Opposition got an opportunity to debate a Private Member’s Motion. The title of Motion: Concerning Opposition to the Development and Operation of a quarry at Richmond in North Leeward. It was proposed by Leader of the Opposition, Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday, and seconded by the Parliamentary Representative for Central Kingstown, Major St. Clair Leacock.
The following is the Motion: “WHEREAS the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has entered into an agreement with Rayneau Construction and Industrial Equipment Ltd (“Rayneau Construction”) for the development and operation by Rayneau Construction of a quarry at Richmond in North Leeward and for that purpose has leased 58.8 acres of land to Rayneau Construction for a period of thirty years;
AND WHEREAS in January 2022, without warning to farmers, heavy equipment drove through farmlands in Richmond to gain access to the quarry site, and Rayneau Construction began work developing the quarry;
AND WHEREAS the quarry will cause significant changes to the landscape and other environmental changes that may seriously affect people, fauna and flora in the surrounding areas and, accordingly, it is necessary and in keeping with generally accepted standards that, prior to the commencement of such a project, an assessment of its impact on the environment and people be done;
AND WHEREAS no Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted in relation to the quarry project in Richmond being developed by Rayneau Construction;
AND WHEREAS under the agreement, lands for the quarry operations have been leased by the Government to Rayneau Construction for $12,000 per year and Rayneau Construction will pay the Government a fee of only $2 per tonne of aggregate sold by the quarry;
AND WHEREAS the failure to have any consultation with the people living in the surrounding areas prior to the commencement of the project, the absence of an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project, and the nature of the financial arrangements agreed to by the government for the operation of the quarry have all led to a public outcry and widespread opposition to the project and in calls from many, including villagers from the surrounding areas to stop the quarry, to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, and to review the financial terms of the agreement;
AND WHEREAS the Government and Rayneau Construction have not halted the project and, notwithstanding the public outcry against it, work on the development of the quarry continues at a rapid pace; BE IT RESOLVED THAT the development of the quarry at Richmond by Rayneau Construction be halted immediately pending satisfactory consultation with residents including farmers, business people, fisherfolk and public sector workers, a satisfactory Environmental Impact Assessment of the project, and a satisfactory review of the financial arrangements between the Government and Rayneau Construction concerning the project”.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) has called on Vincentians to say NO to the approval granted to Rayneau’s quarry operation for 30 years. In a recent press release, the NDP has also raised concerns about Cavali Rock and Cavali Rock reef. The rock is also a place where small vessels may pull up and drop off persons who wish to get to Richmond beach. It has served as a sort of local jetty over the years. This headland of Cavali Rock is iconic as it frames every photograph of the Chateaubelair harbour and Richmond Bay. This rock must stand. It must not be destroyed and replaced with a pier of concrete or rocks as permitted by the ULP government.
Immediately off Cavali Rock is Cavali reef. This is one of the most vibrant reefs in the Richmond area and has been the favourite dive site of the Richmond Vale Academy (RVA) and others for many years. Videos from 2015 from RVA showcase the rich sea life that lies below the water at Cavali Reef. Cavali Reef must stay. If there must be a jetty, it must be located away from the reef, away from this picturesque and much-used headland. The NDP firmly believes in the protection of our unique and special natural resources.
Rayneau Construction has already progressed with the building of a rock pier adjacent to Cavali Rock. Will this pier and all its commercial activity not effectively block access of the public to Cavali Rock? This pier and the industrial activity that will take place at the quarry are surely going to damage Cavali Reef and affect the livelihood of fishers who used Cavali Rock.
The rock pier being built is also likely to negatively affect the livelihoods of the local people who gather pebbles at Richmond beach for building material. Once again, artisanal local industries are being sacrificed and disregarded. The myths of progress associated with quarrying have been debunked – this ULP administration continues to fail us with their lack of creativity.
An NDP Government will be more creative and offer alternative economic and governing models. We should be focused on ecotourism-based businesses in this area as sources of foreign investment.
Rayneau Construction has stated without qualification, that its operation is “99% exportable and 1% for St. Vincent”. It means that the ULP government, acting with its eyes wide open, has sanctioned an enterprise that will literally rip up the flora, fauna, and soil; break, blow apart, excavate, ship, and sell abroad almost all of the Vincentian land extracted under this scheme.
Is a quarry more important to the development of SVG than food security, than protecting our natural heritage? Is taking away good farmland and allocating it to a foreign operated quarry the best for SVG? What kind of development do we want? Is it a sensible developmental option in a country that has a land area of a mere 150 square miles to offer quarrying as an investment opportunity for external investors and for export? At stake is the cultural survival and well-being of our community, our environment, and our ability to make a living — now and for many years to come.