Planning Authority enforcement officers found “no evidence of any excavation activity” at a disused Siġġiewi quarry close to megalithic temples despite documented evidence of fresh rock cutting and illegal core testing.
Unesco sources told the Times of Malta that, in the last few weeks, more pictures were received showing clear evidence that fresh excavations had taken place on site.
Unesco in Paris was also in possession of pictures, published by The Sunday Times of Malta, showing unauthorised core testing activities, the sources added.
Rock cutting and core testing at the quarry known as Tal-Magħlaq are strictly forbidden and can lead to severe sanctions against the operators.
The UN agency, which is keeping a watchful eye on the site due to its proximity to the Mnajdra temples, is investigating after receiving information about illegal activities there. It has sent documentation in its possession to the Maltese authorities and asked for their reactions.
Clear evidence that fresh excavations had taken place
The quarry was decommissioned in 1994 as Unesco feared activity could damage the foundations of the Mnajdra temples, a world heritage site visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
However, the quarry was last July allowed to accept inert waste to be used as backfill, eventually restoring the site.
Despite quarrying being strictly prohibited - the quarry can only be used for backfilling - the Times of Malta has seen documented evidence of a hydraulic hammer being used in excavation works. The pictures also show heavy machinery on site conducting core testing, also an unpermitted activity.
Yet, the planning watchdog insists nothing illegal is happening.
“Enforcement officers… have inspected the quarry in Siġġiewi and found no evidence of any ongoing or recent excavations,” a spokesman said.
“Core sampling had been undertaken prior to mid-July,” he added, without specifying if this was covered by a permit, which sources contend was not the case.
According to the PA, its officers found “no equipment related to excavations was on site”. Officers, it noted, had previously inspected the site on August 10 and there was no evidence of any excavations activity since.
The Environment and Resources Authority had already said no fresh excavations had taken place.
On core testing, which is normally done to establish the solidity of the rock in preparation of further excavation, the environment watchdog directed the Times of Malta to the PA on grounds this was a planning issue.
At the beginning of July, as the island faced shortage of sites to dump building material after all quarries serving such a purpose were full, Environment Minister Josè Herrera had announced that Wasteserv would be taking over the Siġġiewi quarry to host building waste.
However, plans had to be cut short as the quarry owners, a Mizzi organisation company, had asked the police not to allow the government agency inside their private property.
The ERA then issued a fast-track permit to TUM Invest to start operating the quarry for backfilling. TUM had just entered into a management agreement on the quarry with Lapsi Estates, a Mizzi Organisation company.
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