Sand mining is compounding the effect of sea levels rising and any volume of sand taken from the coastal areas is a big loss.
This is also the cause why many families in Solosolo village have relocated to higher grounds because the coastline is slowly eroding and the sea is moving inland.
According to the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Safuta Toelau Iulio he said there are specific sites where sand mining is allowed.
They include areas near rivers because there is sand and gravel which comes from the riverbanks and is piled up at the river mouth.
“We can only issue permits and allow sand mining in areas that we know are safe,” said Safuta.
“That is also why we issue permits to mine the sand at Namo because we know it’s near the river and the sand there is mostly from the river,” he added.
Safuta said the Ministry only allows a certain volume to be taken and there is also a time frame given to the company to complete their work.
As to the complaint about the sand mining at Solosolo and the sinking seawall, Safuta said they have already consulted the companies to rehabilitate the area and to build up the wall to stop the erosion.
Safuta said the Ministry works hand in hand with the village councils to ensure they are both in agreement.
According to Safuta he repeated that only the areas where there are rivers can be mined because they know there is gravel from the river streams.
He said the areas that they can allow are around the Safata and Lefaga areas because they know they are close to rivers.
“When the Ministry says it’s time to stop sand mining, we make sure that that is what happens,” said Safuta.
The volume of mined depends on the amount of sand and gravel there is in the area.
And the amount of volumes allowed for the companies, depends on the amount that the construction needs.
The Ministry can only allow up to ten cubic meters especially for the commercial companies.
How about the families who are living on the beach?
Safuta said they still need to get a permit from the Ministry because they need to survey the area to see if it’s safe for sand mining and although it may not be a large amount, they still need to get a permit.
He said if the area is not secure then the Ministry can permit an area nearby to be used. And as for any charges of illegal sand mining, Safuta said no one has been charged.
“If we find someone who is doing illegal sand mining we would bring them in to get their permits because we are trying to teach the public that everything should be legally done.”
A permit cost for commercial companies is $10 per cubic meter and $5 for individuals.
M.N.R.E. advises the public that they need to get a permit if they need gravel and sand, so that the Ministry can assure a secure area for mining.