Sand mining in the Belham Valley

As property owners in along the Belham Valley, we have watched with dismay as plans have unfolded to institute a formal sand mining venture on the western floor of the valley in lieu of other proposed options.

This flawed scheme presents discouraging concerns that suggest those who favor this have ignored or failed to consider several important points.


We are bewildered about the lack of common sense and logical inconsistencies on the part of the parties that want to mine the sand as well as the government itself.  No one disagrees that this is a potentially valuable “cash crop” for the island, but the very things that have created problems for homeowners and government are equal, if not potentially greater, for miners.


There is an inconsistency of thought that we find surprising from businessmen supposedly oriented to the bottom line and a government that has regularly raised concerns about the dangers of even being in Old Towne, let alone the Belham Valley.

We all have lived under the constant issues presented by the volcano, even when it’s not active.

Tremendous damage to the floor of the valley has been a regular occurrence due to lahars and mud flows which can sweep roads and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment away in a matter of minutes, obviously with great danger to anyone there.

There will be a significant risk and expense to maintaining operations on the floor of the valley that are not present at other alternative sites.

Very puzzling to us that the entities that would stand to lose the most would even consider this approach.


As long as the volcano remains subdued the Plymouth jetty can be used, but we have to face the real possibility that the volcanic activity will increase.

The threat of pyroclastic flows have regularly limited activity in the Belham Valley and routinely forced entry restrictions and even evacuations. If it is not safe to be domiciled many meters above the valley floor, how can it be safe to work there, since we are constantly reminded about how a large and unpredictable collapse could reach the Belham Valley in a matter of minutes?


Are these operators foolish or prideful enough to assume they will always be able to anticipate when something bad might happen and be away to safety. To put themselves and their equipment at such a risk is truly an astoundingly flawed business plan and for the government to allow it is poor public policy.


Would such a potentially lethal and irresponsible idea even be permitted in the UK proper, Canada or the States?  Likely not, especially given the recent tragic history of Montserrat.  We remember the great trauma and sorrow surrounding Montserratians needlessly killed in previous pyroclastic flows.


For almost twenty years now, we have heard repeated statements that the safety of the populace is paramount. Very surprising, inconsistent and discouraging that the British government and the GOM would even consider this given the potential liability and safety issues, especially when other options exist.


If no other options existed, one could make the argument in some intellectual and calculating sense that the potential rewards for the local economy justify the risks entailed for the workers.  However legitimate alternatives exist that do not create the same potential dangers. For the miners to press forward with this idea is bad business; for the government to allow its citizenry to needlessly endure these dangers is morally irresponsible. Alternatives have their problems to be sure, but they don’t entail the clear catastrophic risks this scheme does. They should be pursued.

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