The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) yesterday acknowledged that a member of its council is affiliated with a multimillion-dollar Andros mining project which is seeking government approval, but affirmed that it does not endorse large-scale industrial extractive projects.
Bahamas Materials Company Limited, headed by developer Cameron Symonette, has been seeking buy-in from Andros residents and environmental groups for years now for its North Andros Mining Project, which it claims would diversify that island’s economy.
In a statement yesterday, BNT said it will not comment on or object to the proposed project until the due process is complete.
“As far as we are aware, Bahamas Materials Company’s project has not been given formal consideration by the government. As per the Bahamas Investment Authority and government environmental regulations, if the company advances to that stage, it will at that time be required to produce an EIA [environmental impact assessment] against terms of reference issued by the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP). Upon completion of the EIA and the required public review process, the BNT’s scientific team will review and offer professional commentary,” the environmental watchdog said.
“Finally, the BNT notes commentary on social media regarding a board member having business ties to the proposed project. We acknowledge that there is a member of the BNT Council affiliated with the proposed project, and we state for the public record that in accordance with BNT good governance policies and procedures, that member of the council has formally declared their interest in the project to the BNT Council president. Accordingly, the individual has recused themself from all BNT discussions regarding the proposed project.”
Bahamas Materials Company is seeking government approval to mine several thousand acres on Andros for calcium carbonate, which the developers believe will inject millions into the economy.
The government last week announced it intends to introduce new legislation in the form of the Mining Act to set up a regulatory framework for the mining of natural resources, including aggregates, and ensure the sustainability of such activities.
“While the BNT is not automatically an anti-development organization, we do not support nor endorse large-scale industrial extractive projects such as mining. The BNT understands the importance of both foreign direct and Bahamian capital investment in projects intended to build and sustain the Bahamian economy. At the same time, we all agree that projects need to be developed responsibly across The Bahamas, but particularly in proximity to national parks and marine protected areas. We will continue to be guided by this balance and scientific research as priorities for our organization,” the BNT said.
“The BNT is aware of the general ecological sensitivity of North Andros. The Joulter Cays National Park, while outside the area of impact for the proposed project, is the closest protected area to the proposed project site. Our review of the environmental impact assessment, once completed, would pay particular attention to any activities that may even residually impact this pristine national park.”