Find Mining expertise in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad’s Pitch Lake, around 100 square acres in size, in La Brea still has abundant supplies of asphalt, despite having been mined since the 16th-century. The asphalt is used primarily in road surfacing. Geologists believe that the asphalt – also known as pitch or bitumen – was formed thousands of years ago when the Caribbean tectonic plate slipped under another plate. This created pressure between the two plates that forced oil from deep underground upwards into a pool, from which the deposits concentrated over time and turned into asphalt. A large amount of the asphalt is concentrated at the lake’s surface, with oil also found under the lake.
State-owned Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago carries out the mining operation. The company, which is more than 100 years old, also does refining and distributes the asphalt – its products are sold all over the world, with China and Germany now among its biggest customers. Asphalt is sold as bitumen, bitumen emulsions and asphalt cement. A new pelletised version of its asphalt has also been launched. In 2007, 34,244 tons of asphalt, and related products, were sold.
Trinidad also has a production plant in Point Lisas that processes Brazillian iron ore to create direct reduced iron. The plant was opened by an American company called Nucor in 2006 because of its strategic location – the finished iron is shipped to the USA – and the availability of local low-cost gas.
Between 2008 and 2012 employment in the energy sector averaged 3.2%. The sector is dominated by local workers, but foreign workers are sometimes brought in as engineers and project managers, usually only on a short-term basis.
However, there are still a few foreign workers, or expatriates, employed in the Trinidad and Tobago energy sector. These expatriates include project managers, captains and engineers (drilling, directional, foremen and crews) who are hired typically on a short term or project basis (The Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago, 2007).
Trinidad and Tobago’s quarrying industry focuses on limestone extraction. Blue limestone found in the Northern Range and yellow limestone found in south-central Trinidad are used in construction domestically. Portland cement, a by-product of limestone, is produced by Trinidad Cement – a major manufacturer of cement in the Caribbean. A rock called porcellanite is also quarried.
The majority of the quarries for are sand and gravel, the resources which generate the most revenue for the country. Other materials quarried are clay, used for blocks, tiles and pottery; and red sand used as filler and finishing material in the construction industry.
The state owns most mineral resources, including owning the rights to new sources of minerals that are discovered on private land. However, some older property deeds included the rights to any resources discovered on the land, which means that some of the country’s reserves are privately owned.
The Trinidad and Tobago Minerals Act of 2000 regulates the mining industry through licensing and penalties for illegal activities. However, the act initially lacked the support of a minerals advisory council, which made it hard to implement, so a council was formed in 2012, which proposed new and updated amendments, including stricter licensing and enforcement, a monitoring strategy and greater environmental consideration.
There are 45 licensed quarries and the government is in the process of regulating and licensing every active quarry. It imposes heavy fines on illegal quarrying.
The petroleum industry is governed by the Petroleum Act 1969, the Petroleum Regulations of 1970 and the Petroleum Taxes Act 1974. In 2014 the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs released a green paper on a new national minerals policy. The policy will address management and regulation of the minerals sector, as well as trying to introduce greater levels of competitiveness and transparency in operations.
Trinidad and Tobago received a ‘satisfactory’ score of 74 on the Resource Governance Index compiled by the Natural Resource Governance Institute in 2013, ranking tenth out of 58 countries. It scored particularly well on the Safeguards and Quality Controls component.
Trinidad and Tobago received EITI membership with Candidate Country status on 1 March 2011. The country hopes to get Compliant Country status once the EITI Board is satisfied that all the EITI implementation requirements have been met.
In its latest report on Trinidad and Tobago, covering the period October 2011 to September 2012, the EITI focused primarily on the oil and gas sectors, with little scrutiny of the quarrying sector.
It found that oil and gas generate significant revenues for the economy and have a significant impact on people’s socio‐economic lives. Part of the EITI’s remit is to assess the extent to which a country’s citizenry benefits from the wealth generated by the extractive sectors, based on the philosophy that a country’s mineral resources belong to its people. With this in mind, the report’s authors noted the success of the Fuel Subsidy, which absorbs a part of the total cost of petroleum fuels as a means of protecting consumers from high fuel prices. As a result of the subsidy, the cost of petroleum-based fuels in Trinidad and Tobago are among the lowest in the world. The government also saves some of its oil and gas revenues by depositing them into the Heritage and Stabilization Fund. The fund has two roles, one of which is providing a cushion in case oil and gas revenues fall below projections, minimising the impact on the national budget. It other function is as a financial resource for future generations. The fund is now 100 times bigger than it was in 2000.
The report made various recommendations including asking that the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs introduces appropriate computerised systems to record and control information relating to the production and finances in the oil and gas sector. It also flagged up inconsistencies between some registered companies’ reporting of payments and the government’s reporting of the same payments. The EITI recommends that the government and its private sector partners be required to disclose all material receipts and payments relating to extractive operations in Trinidad and Tobago, whether made by companies registered for business in the country or not. It also wants to see larger companies that operating in the sector in Trinidad and Tobago having their financial statements independently audited under international auditing standards.
It was also noted that the Petroleum Pricing Committee, established under the provisions of the Petroleum Taxes Act to advise the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs on the fair market value of hydrocarbons, has not always met regularly, as required by statute. It asked that the Trinidad and Tobago EITI Steering Committee take a closer interest in the meetings.
|Mining and Minerals organisations in Trinidad and Tobago|
|Harriman J N & Company Limited||
|Lake Asphalt Ltd||
|Lake Asphalt of Trinidad and Tobago (1978) Limited||
|Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries||
|National Quarries Company Limited||
|Trinidad Cement Ltd.||