RESIDENTS are being urged to help authorities to identify illegal quarrying operations that are flaunting the laws of the land, ruining the environment and exploiting workers who are paid menial wages to undertake potentially dangerous work.This was revealed by the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (Aspasa) out of concern for the increase in illegal mining and quarrying in South Africa to the detriment of our environment and communities. According to Aspasa, these quarries also undermine the excellent work of legal quarries who have to comply with strict mining legislation to sustainably extract sand and aggregate and rehabilitate the land once quarrying operations have been completed. This compliance naturally comes at a cost to the legal fraternity and allows unscrupulous illegal operators to undercut prices and jeopardise the livelihoods of legitimate operators.As a result, Aspasa has called on concerned residents, as well as construction professionals and law enforcement, to be on the lookout for quarries that do not seem to be well run, that pollute the environment or that are not good neighbours, as these may well be illegal.By comparison, members of Aspasa are bound by comprehensive legislation regarding mining rights, royalties, health, safety and environment, as well as water usage rights and rehabilitation requirements, which ensure that they are well run. In addition, members have to adhere to the association’s own strict requirements and are audited on an annual basis to ensure compliance. Aspasa members are reported to strive to be good neighbours and get involved in all manner of social upliftment schemes. They also encourage communication and try to work with communities to give them good-quality building materials at a reasonable price without jeopardising the health of workers, the environment or the sustainability of the industry. “A saving of a couple of rand per load of material is not worth the risk to our people and surroundings. We therefore call on individuals to contact Aspasa, the Department of Mineral Resources, the police and/or municipalities to report potentially illegal operators and help snuff out harmful and illegal quarrying practices,” says Nico Pienaar, director of Aspasa.Pienaar added that nobody is allowed to excavate and remove sand, stones or soil without valid permission and permits, no matter how big or small the operation is. This includes so called “borrow pits” used by construction companies, as well as sand from rivers and beaches. “Even if a contractor wants to construct a small road or structure, they may not under any circumstance remove natural sand and stones without following the required processes. Report them and prevent our surroundings being ruined for the sake of a few individuals’ gain.” Nico Pienaar can be reached at Aspasa by dialing 011-791-3327 or by faxing 086-647-8034. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Aspasa online at www.aspasa.co.za.