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ERA silent as crushing gets underway near Mnajdra Temples

eNGOs concerned, but not a peep from environmental regulator

The white tent (top) that protects the Mnajdra Temples is metres away from the quarry.

The white tent (top) that protects the Mnajdra Temples is metres away from the quarry.

Environment and heritage NGOs are raising concerns over restarting industrial activity in a large ‘abandoned’ quarry in Siġġiewi due to its close proximity to the Mnajdra Temples – a Unesco World Heritage site.

The Times of Malta is informed that in a permit issued to Tum Invest Ltd a few days ago to allow an inactive quarry in Siġġiewi, known as Tal-Magħluq, to be rehabilitated and filled with inert waste from the construction industry, the Environment and Resources Authority also gave permission for the installation of a mobile crusher on site so waste could be crushed and used for backfilling.

Various NGOs have expressed concern, insisting industrial activity close to Mnajdra may have negative consequences on the nearby prehistoric temples.

“This particular quarry was closed down in 1994, as it was found that industrial activity in the area was having a negative effect on the stability of the nearby temples,” a member of an environment NGO said.

“Though backfilling the quarry is positive, the use of a crusher and heavy machinery on site will introduce an undesired degree of industrialisation in this sensitive area,” he said.

Questions were also raised at the ‘speed’ with which ERA had issued a permit, with NGOs claiming that no studies had been done beforehand.

The Times of Malta is informed that the ERA gave its green light to reusing the quarry just three days following an application filed by Silvan Fenech on behalf of Tum Invest. Compared to other similar permits issued by ERA, this one was issued in record time.

Industry sources said that though in some cases, ERA allows the use of a crusher in quarries used for construction waste landfill, this is normally permitted so that the aggregate can be compacted on site to level out the back-filling operation. “Normally, the crushed material is not allowed to be used outside the landfill, as that means the landfill can take much longer to be filled, apart from transport and logistics issues.”

However, truckloads of crushed aggregate have been seen leaving the quarry to be used for building roads across the country.

A spokesman for the operators of the quarry admitted that this was the case but said that “there is nothing wrong in this, as this material is of a high quality and it would be a waste not to reuse it.

He also said that "the material is not being sold.”

ERA is maintaining complete silence on what is going on at the quarry and the rapidity with which it issued the permit.

Asked last week to state whether aggregate crushed at Tal-Magħluq can be used elsewhere and if new excavation has taken place at the quarry, ERA did not reply.

The Sunday Times of Malta has reported that while originally it was the government waste management agency, WasteServ, that was to operate the Siġġiewi quarry, the police had to intervene, as the private owners asked the government to vacate the premises, as it had no right to operate there.

Since Environment Minister José Herrera had already made a formal public announcement on the operation of the quarry by WasteServ, the newly discovered private owners were issued a ‘rushed’ permit by ERA so they could start receiving inert waste.

The Sunday Times of Malta said the original owners of the quarry, Lapsi Estates Ltd, which abandoned it more than 20 years ago, quickly made arrangements with Tum Investment Ltd to manage the quarry on its behalf.

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