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Gracie Rock villagers survive Quarry explosion, Company says only small rocks

On Monday Blasts sounded in Gracie Rock Village and residents were quite upset as rocks pelted yards, the football field and the Community Resource Center. Some critics say it was just a few rocks and not a big deal but the residents disagree. Several residents are employed by the quarry so they do not want to speak out in fear that they could lose their jobs. Nonetheless, Love News went to Gracie Rock and found that it was a situation of progress verses preservation and the economy of the environment versus the exploitation of the resources was the real battle at the heart of the rocks that hit the village.

Jose Sanchez: Gracie Rock Village located of the Banks of the Sibun River is where residents have lived off the land from subsistence farming, livestock and hunting. Gracie Rock living is a lifestyle of living in and with the environment but as with every story there is an antagonist and that is The National Aggregates Ltd. This essential machinery is used to extract stones and resources that destroys hills in the name of progress. It is the scenic environmentalist parade that is a mile down the road. Dynamite blast on monday had awoken residents to a threat to their way of life.

Carlton Young Gracie Rock resident: It’s just since these new people take over now because they have been blasting but we never gotten this kind of excitement like this yet. Whenever we are having a blast they come and notify us and they block road but we not too satisfied with that because the stones are coming; you could see them coming. Now yesterday my mom was sitting down eating her food and I just said “Mom get up, let’s go run” because we could see the stones coming down; they’re coming. One flew over her head and I told them don’t let this be like Benque; wait until somebody dies before something happen.

Jose Sanchez: The detonation of explosives that had acquired in Santa Cruz Santa Elena in December 2017 ended with the death of Ronald Sutherland the General Manager of Tiger Aggregates. Several homes were damaged and residents were lucky they were not injured. Carlton Young is sounding the alarm as across the village rocks pelted the community after Monday’s blast.

Carlton Young: We saw it and then after a while we just hear it again SHEW! Flew over our head; that’s how close it came; you know so i don’t know. I know that they got to do what they got to do but we have to protect us because this never happened yet; never yet like those kinds of situation like this and it’s getting worse.

Jose Sanchez: The concern that the Gracie Rock villagers have is that the quarry has been blasting closer and closer and this time very heavy and sizable boulders are making it onto the property. These couple boulders over here have actually missed these cattle so they are concerned that it could actually hit someone or damage property. Though those rocks are small the villagers pointed out a huge boulder that rolled down a hill and parked itself next to a BEL power line during a previous blast. The managers of National Aggregates would not speak to us when we went to the quarry but later sent a press release saying quote’ “ The Fact is that you can count the small number of rocks and mostly clay clusters that in avertable escape the plan containment measures put in place to prevent such anomalies. Most of the rocks fell where they were directed but the few that followed an unusual trajectory were due to the clay content”. The Community Resource Center that was refurbished at $190,000 by the Government of Belize drew a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank in 2011 was hit by one of those small rocks. The press release explained away. That rock melted through the roof and destroyed a significant portion of the ceiling before making a small hole in the floor. Two more of those anomalies; clay content also fell next door at a home where kids are always playing. Luckily they were at the river at the time of the blast. The devastation of the Community Center is symbolic and the National Aggregate said it regretted the deviation and would build two reinforced bunkers for the community. Laurel Young has been living in the village for 45 years and she has no intentions of backing down from this new challenge to village life.

Laurel Young: Well the issue for me right now is very important. It’s the quarry that blast; it is true that they send somebody to block the road that they are going to blast but the fact remains that the blasting affect us back here because I am 77 years old and it get me nervous and not only that; the stones now are coming into our yard. I have to get up and run from that yesterday. I almost had my death right around my dinner table so that’s my concern. I would like them to maybe draw to a different direction blasting. Everybody have to live. I have to live too because during the week holiday now customers come out here and they come to swim and underneath the mango tree that they come there was two big stone that fell from the quarry plus into my yard. I heard that kids in the river was bathing and stone went all down there and at here house Evett and the Community Center got hurt and the football field; there was stone on it too so I think something have to be done; everybody have to live.

Jose Sanchez: But do you feel like him saying sorry will then stop them from their actions.

Laurel Young: I don’t think so; I think it’s the government will have to get in and have to put foot to advise them to what part of the hill to blast because you can see right from my door. You can see the hill there and people have to be trafficking through the road.

Jose Sanchez: It’s clear that no matter what happen; let’s just say the blasting got worse. You have been here for decades; would you leave.

Laurel Young: No I won’t leave my land for nothing because this was bought and paid for by me and my husband. I wont leave here; they will have to leave not me. This is where I am going to die and bury on.

Jose Sanchez: National Aggregates had sent staff to clean up the Resource Center. It remains to be understood why the police has not investigated or why the Ministry of National Resources remains quiet.

Jose Sanchez for Love News.

National Aggregates issued a release in which it states that contrary to some media reports, quote “The fact is that you can count the small number of rocks (and mostly clay clusters) that inadvertently escaped the planned containment measures in place to prevent such anomalies. Most of the rocks fell where they were directed but the few that followed an unusual trajectory were due to the clay content at the “U” shaped basin upper echelons being softer than the rocks hitting it. This is easily solved by lowering the blast height in the future.  End of quote. The company says the licensed blasters are all from Rockville who have been blasting there for over 25 years; additionally the Quarry itself has been blasting for over 60 years. The company says it has met with the villagers and assured them of new security measures to be implemented together with building two community reinforced bunkers as they have requested. The company reiterates that it will rectify all damage and continue to maintain villager requests from time to time which vary from hurricane assistance to road and bridge repairs.