Wednesday, 2 August 2023, 14:50
Los Colmenarejos ravine in the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama mountain range lies on the border of Malaga and Granada provinces. Located just one kilometre from the village of Maro, it is home to a large abandoned limestone quarry, which for more than two decades has been a graveyard for around twenty industrial vehicles and heavy machinery. The site has frequently been targeted by vandals and thieves.
The former quarry was sealed off by Nerja town hall on 20 July 2000 and for more than a decade, the former quarry owner, Orlando S.L., tried to fight the courts to allow it to reopen. At that time the contract had not expired and only three of the 10 hectares of of the quarry had been exploited, as was the case with another quarry located in Canillas de Albaida, which is still active despite also being located within the boundaries of the same mountain range.
However, in successive rulings, the courts upheld the decision of Nerja town hall and the quarry remained closed. Since 2013 the company’s owner, Orlando Rodríguez, has been trying to obtain permission from the local and regional administrations to remove all the heavy machinery that has remained there since its closure. In fact, he is still having to pay a mining tax and has not been reimbursed for a guarantee he paid when he started mining there in 1984, as he explained to SUR.
"I am 62 years old and I want to put an end to all this once and for all. It has given me so many headaches," Rodríguez, who has a fleet of lorries in Vélez-Málaga, explained. The businessman has stressed that the town hall is "finally very interested in solving this, in putting an end to it, that I take the machinery away from there and that the old quarry is restored". However, bureaucracy has delayed the solution over the years as several departments of the Junta de Andalucía are also involved in the case.
Rodríguez has told SUR that the old machinery's value on the scrap market "will barely reach 30,000 or 40,000 euros", and said that it would cost him more to remove it. "In the end it is costing me money, but I don't care, what I want is for them to leave me alone and get all that machinery out of there once and for all.”
According to Rodríguez, even if the Junta gives him the go-ahead soon, removing the abandoned heavy machinery and restoring the areas cannot be start before autumn. He pointed out that this type of activity is prohibited during summer due to the high risk of fire, as it would involve using blowtorches and other flammable devices.
The situation of this old aggregate quarry hides a conflict that began more than two decades ago, when the Junta was processing the declaration of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama as a protected natural park in November 1999.
At the time Nerja town hall announced that the licence to exploit the quarry had expired. It is located next to the Arroyo de la Miel site, which was subsequently used as an illegal dump for 18 years. The latter led to a trial implicating the mayor of Nerja, José Alberto Armijo the councillor for urban planning, Nieves Atencia, and six local construction business owners. All were acquitted earlier this year although the public prosecutor, who was asking for two years in prison and 18 months of disqualification, has appealed Armijo’s acquittal.
Los Colmenarejos ravine, which is located just one kilometre from the old quarry, is considered to be one of the most spectacular rock formations in the Axarquía, with a large natural stone arch, formed by the erosion of rocks over billions of years, popularly known as ‘el puente de piedra’ (stone bridge).
According to Rodríguez, the Junta is reviewing the site with a view to carrying out environmental restoration work "to the value of more than 100,000 euros".
The coordinator of environmental action group, GENA-Ecologistas en Acción, Rafael Yus, has said that they will raise a question about the abandoned machinery at a forthcoming meeting of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama board, of which he is a member. "It is impossible not to see the environmental impact it generates, I remember that it was discussed before and it was said that the matter was between the business owner and the town hall, but things cannot go on forever,” Yus said.
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