Sand mining was the largest industry to ever take place on the island, and after thirty years of stopping and starting the Barbuda Council tried to finally bring an end to the industry by Council resolution in early April 2012. In spite of this, it has been continued by various Council leaders on both sides, who view it as a lucrative income regardless of the environmental damage caused.
But this pales into comparison with the period between 1983 and 1993 when the most serious exploitation of Barbuda’s natural resource by the Antigua government took place. Started by an American investor Dave Strickland who built the Sandman House on River beach, the sand business grossed over EC$218 million in total, but Barbudans saw few benefits of this as it went into the pockets of the partners in the sand mining business – three Antigua Government ministers and the late Bruce Rappaport, owner of the now defunct Swiss-American bank.
The industry was the cause of much bitterness and enmity between the then Antiguan (Lester Bird) Government, the Barbuda Council and the majority of the people of Barbuda – who received nothing from the sale of sand. During the height of the mining a road was built and tarmaced on one side only for the trucks to take sand as fast as possible – at a time when Barbuda had no other surfaced roads – such was the hurry to ship as much as possible off the island for maximum profit in Antigua. Litigation to prevent this exploitation was in the High Courts for over ten years and resulted in three members of Antigua Aggregates and Sandco Ltd (the companies responsible for mining the sand) being jailed for one month, but then saved from prison by a last minute ‘pardon’. It was a dark period in post independence Barbuda and has resulted in widespread environmental damage with no lasting benefits at all for the population of Barbuda.