Government yesterday insisted that several of its projects remain under threat from a stone shortage despite assurances from one major producer that all is well and there is no need for the aggregate to be imported.
The quarrel over the “shortage” has drawn salvos from both sides in recent days with the administration coming up against BK International, one of the country’s biggest contractors, who also manages a stone quarry in Essequibo.
Yesterday, during a press conference at his Kingston office, Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, said that the mere fact that stone is being imported, and that there is a price increase of around 40 per cent over two years, is evidence enough that there is a shortage.
This was in response to a BK International statement that there was no shortage. Several senior officials of the Ministry were present at the press conference.
“There is a stone shortage in Guyana and it is only some misguided members of the media and some operators who may have a perverted vested interest who would be… promoting the line that there is no …shortage.”
The shortage, according to the Works Minister, has resulted in the importation of stone by some contractors in order to meet demands. Benn said that if this situation is not addressed now, the price for stone will continue to increase unabated and the supply deficit will also increase.
“Important capital projects such as the expansion of the CJIA, rehabilitation of the West Coast Demerara Road, East Coast Demerara Road, Sheriff- Mandela roadway as well as routine maintenance works, private constructions and new housing development will be stymied.”
According to figures from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), five quarries owned by BK, Toolsie Persaud and Baracara Quarries, among others, produced over 483,000 tonnes of boulders, crusher run, sifting and other stones last year. Government project demanded 1.16 million tonnes, clear indications that there is a shortage.
The Ministry said it has since advised the administration to import stones as quarries have not been producing enough to meet local demands.
Benn did not rule out a possibility that there may be cartel-like operations by the quarries to drive prices up by producing less, creating a demand as a result.
“Over the past few years, the quarries have not been producing adequate amounts of stone to satisfy the domestic markets’needs. Contractors have repeatedly complained that some quarry products were being rationed by the suppliers. This high demand chasing very low supply has led to an unhealthy situation of price escalation and poor time performance by contractors generally.”
The Ministry said it did a fly-over of the quarries in operations and it is clear that most of them have only a few days’ supply. This includes the quarry belonging to BK. “Recently, officials from the Ministry of Public Works conducted an investigation of the quarries located on the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers and observed very little activity and few stockpiles of aggregates on site.”
The Minister was also critical of the quality of crusher run supplied by BK which has failed analysis test and found unsuitable for road works and has been rejected.
“Contrary to what was reported to the media, official data from GGMC and reports from engineers, consultants and contractors all conclude that there is a significant deficit in the supply of stone products in Guyana.”
The average monthly demand for aggregates in 2012 was about 97,000 tons for housing and public projects such as roads, sea and river defence projects.
“An example to consider is the Sea Defence sector where under the 9th EDF for 2012, a total of 418,762 tons of boulders were required to adequately complete the work program for that year. During that same period the total quantity of boulders supplied was 129,622 tons resulting in an overall deficit of about 70 per cent.”
BK is set to take media workers on a visit to its quarry at Teperu, Mazaruni, to prove that it has adequate stockpiles to supply the market. The company claimed that it may have to export the surplus.
During a press conference earlier this week, Public Relations consultant for BK International, Kit Nascimento, said that President Donald Ramotar had been wrongly and badly advised about the stone situation and that there is no shortage.
According to Gail Tiwarie, Director responsible for materials, the Kingston site has approximately 10,000 tons of stone in stockpile, and another 10,000 tons at the quarry which is producing over 40,000 tons of stone per month. This was disputed by Benn yesterday who said photos of the flyover of the company’s quarry proved otherwise.
The company challenged Government to produce one contractor who can say there are no stones available at BK International.
Benn also disputed claims that stones imported are not of the right quality or of slate.
The price of stone has moved from $6,500 to almost $11,000 per tonne.
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