Wied Inċita quarry has history of illegalities, but minister shoots down ‘favouritism’ claim

Minister hits back at Arnold Cassola’s claim he ‘gifted’ millions to Wied Inċita quarry operators

The quarry at Wied Incita will start receiving construction waste
The quarry at Wied Incita will start receiving construction waste

An Attard quarry where construction waste will be dumped has a longstanding permit to receive such material, the Environment Minister said as he shunned accusations of favouritism.

Aaron Farrugia said the Wied Inċita quarry is legally permitted to accept construction and demolition waste and no new license was issued.

The quarry was identified on Tuesday for the disposal of construction waste following an agreement reached between the government and operators to fix the price of dumping.

The reluctance of quarry owners to open up for construction waste created a situation where developers had nowhere to dump demolition and excavation waste. The issue came to a head this week when Infrastructure Malta ordered all road works to stop until a solution is found.

However, the opening of the Wied Inċita quarry was met with severe criticism from former AD chairperson Arnold Cassola, who accused government of gifting the quarry operator millions of euros despite an ongoing court case against the owner.

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The quarry is in fact the subject of litigation filed by the Attard local council against the ministry and others, in which it is claimed, amongst other things, that the Wied Inċita quarry site is being illegally used for dumping.

The Wied Inċita quarry is subject to litigation initiated by the Attard council several years ago over alleged illegalities on site
The Wied Inċita quarry is subject to litigation initiated by the Attard council several years ago over alleged illegalities on site

The council had asked the courts to declare the structures already built on the site as having been built illegally, hold the defendants responsible for the damage caused to the valley and order them to stop dumping waste and expanding their footprint.

Cassola denounced the plans for the quarry as a “scam”, insisting that the operators were gifted millions despite illegalities on site.

“[Minister] Ian Borg and [Infrastructure Malta CEO] Frederick Azzopardi have manoeuvred in order to have the operators of an illegally operating quarry gifted multi-millions,” Cassola said in a statement released to the media on Wednesday.

Cassola said the land in question was mostly government owned and only on temporary emphytheusis, insisting the payment for the quarry dumping should benefit public coffers.  

“This is another criminal deal with the blessing of the government, that is robbing the taxpayer, as the payment should be due to the government not to private companies that are operating quarries without regular permits, against which there are ongoing court proceedings regarding dust and air quality,” Cassola said.

But the Environment Minister rebutted the claims, insisting the Wied Inċita quarry has been operational for many years, pre-dating the establishment of the Planning Authority and the Environmental and Resources Authority.

Farrugia said the solution that was found to the construction and demolition waste issue was the result of extensive discussions that involved both the PA and ERA as regulators in the field.

“This was purposely done to ensure that any solution is in line with the relative regulatory requirements.  The quarry in question is in fact legally permitted to accept construction and demolition waste and no new license is being issued,” he said.

Farrugia added this was not a case of ‘choosing’ this quarry to accept such waste but rather a matter that the license holders have now accepted to receive construction waste in line with valid permits they hold.

Farrugia said the court case filed by the Attard council is still ongoing and therefore did not have any regulatory impact at this stage.

“This means that existing permits are still fully valid at law. Clearly the regulatory authorities shall be ensuring that construction and demolition waste will be accepted and handled by the operator within the permitted boundaries… I should reiterate that the acceptance of construction and demolition waste has been long permitted at this quarry,” he said.

Cassola reply

In a further reaction, Cassola said Farrugia was unaware of the history of illegalities the said quarry and its different owners have had.

“The illegalities at Wied Inċita quarry have been going on unchecked since at least the 1990s. The terms and conditions of a 1967 emphyteusis deed with the government, which owns the land, have been consistently ignored,” he said.

A court sentence was handed out in favour of residents, including Lawyer Robert Mangion, by the Maltese courts. Then, in 2009 the Attard local council filed two judicial protests against the authorities complaining the operators of the quarry had caused environmental damage to the valley in the locality and that the rock cutting in the quarries they operated in Wied Inċita were casting a lot of dust into the atmosphere.

The local council accused the company operating the quarry of breaching the lease agreement by digging into and encroaching onto public land. “Indeed, the authorities asked the quarry owners to take all the necessary steps to solve the dust problem, to stop excavating outside the quarries and to submit rehabilitation plans. This recommendation was systematically ignored.”

In 2012 the Attard council filed a judicial protest against the owners of the quarry because of the building of a factory for the manufacture of bricks, dust pollution, the illegal building of a bridge to join the quarry in Attard to one in Zebbug and for allowing rubble and debris mounds to grow over the established heights.

Again in 2017, a number of Attard residents wrote to the Planning Authority requesting it to clamp down on quarrying illegalities in the area occupied by its quarries.

“If Minister Farrugia believes that a quarry with such a chequered history of environmental illegalities, and with an ongoing court case, deserves to be gifted millions by the government, I am afraid he has got his priorities wrong.”

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