9 April 2007
SINGAPORE, April 9 (Reuters) - Singapore said it will reopen a small granite quarry on one of its islands to supply its booming construction industry after Indonesia interrupted granite exports and banned all sand exports to the city-state.
The government fears that Indonesia -- which was Singapore's main sand supplier until it banned all sand exports to the city-state on environmental grounds -- may halt granite exports as well, potentially damaging the city-state's fast-growing building sector and the economy.
Grace Fu, minister of state for national development, told parliament on Monday that the government would look at restarting a quarry on the tiny island of Pulau Ubin to provide local supplies of granite.
"It is necessary to carry out some limited quarrying to understand the issues involved in reactivating quarries," Fu said, adding that Singapore was also importing granite from other countries in the region.
The construction sector has already been hit by the sand ban, as builders are being forced to buy more expensive sand from the government's stockpile and from other countries.
Goerge Yeo, Singapore's foreign affairs minister, said on Monday that Indonesia has not banned granite exports to the city-state. However, Yeo said that supply has been disrupted after 22 Singapore-bound barges and tugboats carrying granite were detained by Indonesia in February and March.
Yeo said seven of the 22 tugboats and barges were alleged to be carrying sand, while the rest were detained for violating other Indonesian shipment and custom regulations.
Indonesia has said that the detention was part of "administrative verification procedures".
Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said last month that Indonesia would continue to export granite to Singapore as long as the shipments were checked by appointed surveyors to guard against damaging the environment.
The price of concrete, which is made of sand, granite and cement, has nearly tripled to S$200 ($132) per cubic metre from S$70 ($46), according to the local Straits Times paper. The higher raw material prices would add about S$100,000 ($66,100) to the cost of building a S$2.5 million house, the paper said.
Singapore has turned to other sand suppliers including China, Cambodia and Vietnam since Indonesia's sand ban in January. Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said last week that Myanmar could also be a long-term supplier of sand and granite.
Ties between Indonesia and Singapore have soured since the ban, with Singapore criticizing Indonesia for using the sand export ban to pressure it into negotiations on an extradition treaty and border delineation.