Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 15th 2013 Contents B1
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Both local and international environmen-
talists have been warning against the dangers
of local tar sands mining for years. Tar sands
or oil sands are clay, bitumen and dirt
deposits which can be mined and refined to
produce synthetic oil.
The report Tar Sands in T&T? A look at the
dirtiest oil from Canada to T&T, written by
Canadian environmentalist Macdonald Stainsby,
outlines what he believes is evidence that con-
secutive T&T governments have planned and
are planning to begin mining tar sands locally.
The report also outlines the environmental
dangers associated with tar sands.
Stainsby has visited Trinidad four times
However, Minister of Energy and Energy
Affairs, Kevin Ramnarine, in a telephone inter-
view, said the Government has "no plans to
develop the country s oil sands."
Kyle de Lima, of Trini Eco Warriors, who
assisted with compiling the report, stands by
He said tar sand mining could lead to mas-
sive deforestation and possible relocation of
Among the evidence cited in the report are
public statements from former energy ministers
Conrad Enill and Carolyn Seepersad Bachan
and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar.
The report also cites the reintroduction of
the Royal Bank of Canada into T&T, a mem-
orandum of understanding with an Indian
energy company, Reliance Energy, for bitumen
upgrading, the refurbishment of the Petrotrin
refinery, the construction of the San Fernando
to Point Fortin highway and the opening of
a desalination plant in Point Fortin.
According to de Lima, RBC is the largest
financier of tar sands in Canada. Attempts to
obtain a comment from RBC on any prospec-
tive financing of tar sands operations in this
country were unsuccessful.
De Lima said the main focus of his organ-
isation was to educate the population and
allow people to make their own decisions.
There were 2,000 copies of the report print-
ed and distributed throughout Trinidad,
including to the areas in Southwest Trinidad
where there are high levels of bitumen deposits.
These areas include Vessigny, La Brea, Guapo
Yet, whether or not this evidence leads to
actual tar sand mining is still up for debate.
According to the report: "This is not to say
all or even any of the proposed industrial proj-
ects in the southwest are specifically or even
primarily for tar sands development.
"However, every single one of these infra-
structure projects make tar sands cheaper,
more practical and more viable than without
Ramnarine did not comment on statements
made by Seepersad-Bachan or Prime Minister
However, he said the agreement between
Reliance Energy and the T&T government
is no indication that there are plans to mine
He said: "In the oil industry, bitumen is not
only found in tar sands. Bitumen is also a by-
product of the refining of crude oil. In fact,
we currently produce bitumen at Pointe-a-
Pierre and we are not mining tar sands are
against tar sands
Stainsby s report used Canada as an example
of some of the devastating effects tar sand
mining has on communities.
The Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, Canada,
are widely regarded as the largest deposits of
bitumen in the world. In the report, he points
to the Fort MacKay and Fort Chipweyan
indigenous communities which are surrounded
by mining operations.
According to the report, in Fort MacKay "a
large number of children in the community
are suffering from breathing problems such
as emphysema and asthma."
In Fort Chipewyan, which has a population
of 1200, the report says a minimum of two
and possibly more than six cases of a rare
cancerous disease, cholangiocarcinoma, have
According to Stainsby, this cancer should
appear only once in 100,000 people. Other
cancers have also affected residents and a
study by the provincial government concluded
that cancer rates were 30 per cent higher than
expected in 2009.
Cancers are caused by the ingestion or
inhalation of toxic materials used in the process
of tar sand mining, the report says. These
materials include arsenic, cadmium, lead, nick-
el, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydro-
These materials contaminate water supplies,
seep into soil and are released into the air.
Fort Chipewyan is 200 kilometres from tar
sands operations but remains negatively affect-
ed.In the area of Southwest Trinidad, where
family homes and small businesses are situated
on top of and surrounding bitumen deposits,
the health issues could be much more detri-
La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffery believes tar
sand mining is a "bad idea" due to the negative
effects on the environment.
But Jeffery said in an interview that he s
"weary of all these grandiose projects" which
never come to fruition in southwest Trinidad,
particularly La Brea.
In 2006, there were plans to build an alu-
minium smelter plant in La Brea, which envi-
ronmentalists also protested against.
The plant, Jeffrey said, was one of 16 pro-
posed projects that have failed to come through
in recent years.
He believes some major infrastructural proj-
ect is necessary to alleviate unemployment in
the area, however. Continues on Page B2
The short and medium-length films
that will screen at the 2013 T&T Film
Festival (TTFF) were announced today.
Fifty-six of these films will be shown in
all at the ttff/13, which runs from
September 17 to October 1.
The 56 films---both fiction and
documentary---represent 18 countries in
the Caribbean and the diaspora. Half
come from T&T. In addition, 13 of the
films will be in competition, for either
Best Short Film or Best Local Short Film.
"As ever, the largest section of our film
lineup is our short films section,"
Jonathan Ali, editorial director of the
TTFF said in a release. "And also as ever,
the selection of shorts is wonderfully
diverse, in terms of content, style and
countries represented. We hope
audiences will enjoy the films chosen."
The Festival, which is in its eighth year,
has already announced its opening and
closing night films (Half of a Yellow Sun
and Tula: The Revolt, respectively), as
well as its 22 Caribbean features. Still to
be announced are the panorama features
(films from world cinema) and the
experimental films playing in the New
To see the current line-up
of films, visit ttfilmfestival.com
56 Caribbean shorts announced for T&T Film Festival
Tar sands in T&T?
An industrial project in Vessigny, La
Brea Forest area has already been
cleared and environmentalists warn
that more deforestation is to come
from a tar sands project in La Brea.
PHOTO: LESLIE ROBERTSON TONEY
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