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ROCK OF CONTENTION

Spain blocks exports of sand from crossing Gibraltar border

Environmentalists lodge legal complaint against removal of material from dunes

Rock authorities say “any suggestion of illegality” should be directed toward Tarifa

The Interior Ministry on Wednesday ordered the Civil Guard on the frontier with Gibraltar to prevent trucks laden with Spanish sand from entering the British outpost. The sand, which is being taken from the dunes at Valdevaqueros in Tarifa, is then used in land reclamation for a property development and the regeneration of the Sandy Bay beach on the Rock.

The prohibition was put into action after consultation between the Interior Ministry, Customs and Excise and the environmental arm of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It follows a complaint lodged by ecologists on July 17 against the municipal government of Tarifa, over which a judicial process has been initiated. The potential charges that could be leveled include “aggravated robbery” and falsification of documents.

Antonio Muñoz, spokesman for environmental group Campo de Gibraltar, which reported the situation, expressed his satisfaction over the ban: “They are tearing their hair out over the conflict with Gibraltar on land reclamation and it turns out that Spanish companies have been supplying the sand,” he said.

The Gibraltar authorities negotiated the purchase of 10,000 metric tons of sand from the Van Orrd company, destined for Sandy Bay but said that “local authorities” were responsible for its removal and “at no time” were they aware it had been taken from Valdevaqueros. Gibraltar also noted that Van Orrd has all the necessary licenses demanded by law. The mayor of Tarifa, Juan Andrés Gil, has yet to comment on the matter. Van Orrd complained of “numerous difficulties put in place by the Spanish authorities,” leading Gibraltar’s first minister, Fabian Picardo, to contract Spanish firm GC Ingeniería y Obra Civil to supply the remaining 7,000 tons required.

The Spanish government made a verbal complaint to the United Kingdom on August 6 over the construction of a jetty in disputed waters on the eastern cove of the Rock, where two more are planned as part of a property development. “Any suggestion of illegality should be directed to the pertinent authorities in Spain, concretely Tarifa,” Gibraltar said last month.

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