quarry - Alex Levac - January 31 2011
A quarry in the West Bank (illustrative only). Photo by Alex Levac
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A new legislative bill aims to end illegal mining and quarrying by going after not only the operators but also anyone who transports the excavated material from the site or uses the finished products.

The Knesset members sponsoring the draft law hope that by making all parties in the supply chain liable to prosecution and punishment the law will have a powerful deterrent effect.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is scheduled to discuss the bill, whose main sponsor is MK Uri Ariel (National Union ), next week.

If the bill passes all the legislative hurdles it will constitute an amendment to existing mining regulations. It would impose a prison sentence of up to three years as well as stiff fines on anyone convicted of engaging in illegal mining or quarrying activities or of transporting the products of such. Anyone who transports or trades in the products of mines would be obligated to conduct due diligence in order to establish that the mines they are doing business with are licensed to operate. Anyone who takes possession of and uses mining products would be responsible for making sure that the material was obtained legally, or face a prison sentence of up to six months.

The aim of the bill is to curb the widespread operation of unlicensed mines and quarries both within and beyond the Green Line, especially Palestinian-owned mines, which are not always adequately supervised.

According to Green Now, a nonprofit organization formed by settlers that operates in the West Bank, there are close to 100 illegal quarries operating beyond the Green Line. That number is significantly higher than official Environmental Protection Ministry figures, according to which there are an estimated 20 illegal mines and quarries in the West Bank.

Within the Green Line most of the illegal quarrying operations involve either sand, used in construction, or topsoil intended for farming. The Israel Lands Administration has attempted to reduce the illegal exploitation of sand but the practice continues in various areas along the coastal plain.

The Civil Administration's efforts to halt illegal quarrying in the West Bank have been largely ineffective. The Palestinian Authority has not taken any genuine measures to end these activities, which are often carried out in close proximity to residential areas, endangering public health.