A number of heavy vehicles have been left abandoned in the natural park for two decades. / e. cabezas

A 20-year-old scrap metal cemetery in the middle of the Sierra Almijara natural park

The owner of the old Los Colmenarejos quarry regrets that neither the town hall nor the regional government has responded to his request to remove the twenty or so heavy vehicles that have been in the area since the late 1990s.

Eugenio Cabezas

A scrap-heap of heavy vehicles and heavy machinery remains immobile in the middle of area of outstanding natural beauty at the bottom of the Barranco de los Colmenarejos ravine near Maro, within the boundaries of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park, making the area look like a scene out of a film.

A little over a year has passed since SUR last reported on the situation of this old quarry, which was sealed off by Nerja town hall at the end of the 1990s, following the announcement by the regional government that the area, which covers more than 40,600 hectares in 13 municipalities in the provinces of Malaga and Granada, was to be declared a natural park. Although twelve months ago the town hall announced that it was determined to remove the machinery "as soon as possible" no progress has been made.

The owner of the vehicles, the Vélez-Málaga businessman Orlando Rodríguez, has insisted that until the council and the Junta de Andalucía give him permission to remove the machinery, he cannot do so, "Because officially there is still a municipal seal on the quarry installations," he explained. When the town hall took that decision in 2013, Rodríguez took the town hall to court. "In 2013 we presented a request to withdraw it and they did not answer us, and more than a year ago the same thing, we are still waiting," he protested.

The businessman has said that they "never" returned a bank guarantee of three million pesetas and added that it is costing him 222 euros a year to renew it. "I want to wipe the slate clean, take that machinery out of there once and for all," despite the fact that it will cost him more to remove the machinery than the value it has is for scrap, which he says is around 40,000 euros.

The situation at the old 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 natural park. Nerja town hall considered the licence to exploit this quarry together with that of Río de la Miel, which was subsequently used as an illegal rubbish dump for 18 years, to have expired.

The latter is an ongoing case, with Nerja Mayor José Alberto Armijo, the councillor for Town Planning Nieves Atencia, and six local construction businesses facing prison sentences.

The public prosecutor is asking for a sentence of two years in prison and 18 months ban from public office for an alleged crime against the environment and natural resources, in addition to having demanded a bail of 10.8 million euros from Nerja town hall for the accumulation of more than 800,000 cubic metres of waste of all kinds from construction and demolition at the site. The hearing is due to take place in Malaga between February and March 2022.

The Junta began work in May this year to seal the dump with an investment of 1.6 million euros and a completion period of twelve months.

The coordinator of the Axarquía environmental group GENA - Ecologistas en Acción, Rafael Yus, said that he would raise a question about the abandoned machinery at a forthcoming meeting with the Junta de Andalucía’s natural park committee, of which he is a member. "It is impossible not to see the environmental impact it generates, I remember that it was discussed on one occasion and I was told it was a matter concerning the businessman and the town hall, but things cannot go on forever," said Yus.

SUR has tried without success to get a statement from Nerja town hall on the situation.