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Stone quarries in Idlib countryside

Stone quarries in northern Syria - June 2020 (Enab Baladi / Iyad Abdel Jawad)

Stone quarries in northern Syria - June 2020 (Enab Baladi / Iyad Abdel Jawad)

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Idlib – Iyad Abdel Jawad

Stone quarries spread in the mountain regions of north-western Syria. Despite the risks associated with working at stone quarries sites, a good segment of workers relies on them as a source of livelihood. Besides, stone quarries pose a threat to agricultural land and cause cracks to houses and buildings adjacent to them.

On the other hand, random blasting operations during quarrying contribute to the opening of springs and increasing their flow.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Abdul Salam al-Ibrahim, owner of a stone quarry in Idlib countryside, said that the work of stone quarries is concentrated in the areas of Deir Hassan, Kafr Lusin, Sarmada, and al-Tawamah, where some 30 quarries spread.

These quarries provide construction materials such as sand, gravel, and crushed rock for roads’ backfilling process.

According to al-Ibrahim, the quarrying work is based on crushing stones extracted from mountains and turning them into building materials.

These mineral extraction sites provide northern Syria’s market with aggregates, especially after the recent wave of displacement to the area, as demand for these materials has increased for the construction of residential buildings and concrete housing units for the displaced people.

Al-Ibrahim pointed out that some quarries are specialized in extracting large rocks to send them to marble and granite saws to cut and sell them in the Syrian north.

The operation of a single quarry site requires a staff of between ten and 20 workers with experience in this field, al-Ibrahim said.

He added, one of the most prominent problems experienced by the workers of this field is the provision of certain items, such as spare parts, diesel oil, and explosive materials.

Nevertheless, the continued devaluation of the Syrian pound’s value remains the biggest problem, according to al-Ibrahim.

He added that he switched the currency of his employees’ wages to the Turkish lira due to the decline of the Syrian pound’s value.

The impact of stone quarries on the environment

Regarding the effects of stone quarries on the environment and wildlife, the agricultural engineer, Anas Abu Tarboush told Enab Baladi that the impacts are caused by the random spread of stone quarries, which threatens the life of honey bees, thus reducing the most important function of bees, that is to fertilize the flowers of the crops in the region.

This will lead to a decrease in the production of some crops that depend on air and bees in the process of flower pollination.

Moreover, the dust created from the quarries hinders the process of photosynthesis, which affects the growth of plants and trees that are scattered near the quarries sites.

The dust increases the difficulty of breathing for those with respiratory diseases in this region, as a result of inhaling polluted air, according to Abu Tarboush.

Besides the previous effects, stone quarries have a considerable impact that causes cracking of buildings near them, Abu Tarboush added.

He also pointed out that quarrying is a source of horror to people due to the blasting operations included in the process of extracting stones.

At the same time, Abu Tarboush indicated that several studies confirmed the benefit of stone quarries, which is to facilitate the opening of land surface water springs.

Ahmed Zakour, a farmer from Kafr Arouk village of Idlib countryside, rented his land of olive trees to a person working in the extraction of stones, who used the land for stone cutting operations.

Zakour had no idea how much damage this quarrying work can cause his olive trees.

Many of his trees dried up due to digging works near them, uprooting them, and passing machines over their roots.

According to Zakour, the production of the remaining trees dropped to the half as a result of the dust created by the uprooting of trees and breaking of branches due to the blasting works of the quarry.

As for the risks of stone quarries to the workers, the Director of the Media Office of the “Syria Civil Defense” in Aleppo, Ibrahim Abu al-Leith, said that in one of the quarries located in Trenda village in Afrin countryside, two brothers were killed as large rocks fell on them due to the blasting operations in the site.

Abu al-Leith confirmed that another person working in a stone quarry site in al-Atarib city on the Abzomo town’s road was killed for the same reason.

He confirmed that quarries have great effects on workers’ lives, especially with the absence of necessary safety measures, besides the randomness of this work.

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