Resources authority issues permit for Zonqor boreholes

Geological studies at Zonqor Point may not have required a planning permit, but did require a permit from the Malta Resources Authority

james
James Debono
6 December 2016, 8:00am
Geological studies at Zonqor Point may not have required a planning permit, but did require a permit from the Malta Resources Authority
Geological studies at Zonqor Point may not have required a planning permit, but did require a permit from the Malta Resources Authority
Two of the boreholes being drilled at Zonqor by the Sadeen Group, the developers of the controversial American University of Malta, needed a permit from the Resources Authority, which was issued only on Friday, days after studies commenced on site.

The geological studies being carried out at Zonqor Point may not have required a planning permit, as confirmed by a Planning Authority spokesperson on Thursday, but did require a permit from the Malta Resources Authority.

The studies are being carried out to assess the stability of the ground on the Zonqor site which has been earmarked for the development of a campus by the American University of Malta after 18,000 square metres of ODZ land was transferred by the government to Sadeen Group a year ago.

Geological studies involving the drilling of boreholes commenced earlier this week.

But according to MRA chief executive Anthony Rizzo, it was only on Thursday, days after the commencement of these studies, that the Resources Authority ‘was informed that a number of boreholes are going to be dug at Zonqor Point for site investigation purposes’.

Rizzo confirmed that according to law boreholes reaching what is defined as the saturated zone – the area in an aquifer, below the water table, in which relatively all pores and fractures are saturated with water – need a permit.

According to Rizzo only two of the boreholes will reach the saturated zone while the rest will be dug to a depth that is less than half the distance between the water table and the ground level.

“While the two boreholes that will reach the saturated zone need a permit; the rest do not,” Rizzo told MaltaToday.

A permit for the drilling of the two boreholes reaching the saturated zone was issued on Friday. Rizzo insisted that work on these two boreholes has not started yet.

The permit issued by the MRA lists a number of conditions, including the maximum depth of the borehole, the maintenance of a drilling log, the taking of measures to prevent ingress of contaminants and conditions relating to the sealing of the borehole following the investigations.

MaltaToday is informed that the MRA inspected the site after being asked to investigate by a member of an environmental NGO.

On Thursday, questioned by MaltaToday, a spokesperson for the Planning Authority confirmed that no planning application has been presented for the construction of the American University of Malta campus. Geological studies in the area are however underway.

“The studies in question do not require a development notification,” the PA spokesperson said.

Information collected for these studies could be included in a prospective Environment Impact Study. A spokesperson for ERA confirmed that no terms of reference have been issued for an EIA.

In August, AUM academic head Dr Nasser Zayyat announced that a masterplan for the Zonqor campus was still being drafted.

Originally, more than 90,000 square metres of ODZ land was envisioned for the development. This was however scaled down after the government decided to allocate Dock 1 to Sadeen Group for the development of a substantial part of the new campus.

In October, Sadeen Education Investments presented a planning application to build an additional floor on the Knights’ Building in Bormla, and three new buildings – including a students’ residence – in the Dock 1 area.

The Planning Authority has already approved a permit for part of the campus in the British building, also located at Dock 1.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...