By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian natural resources lobby group believes the Government can reap more than $2.5m a year from aragonite royalties, and urged it to publicly disclose all economic impact studies.
Dana Munnings, an attorney and president of The Bahamas Natural Resources Foundation (BNRF), which launched in February, told Tribune Business: "Bahamians have been talking about aragonite and its value for a while. We have constantly asked for government to make public the reports which have been done.
"When you hear the Minister speak about an economic report, our questions would be who conducted it, when was it conducted, and will it be made available for the public to review if it was paid for by the taxpayers? The minister also referred to other geological reports."
Ms Munnings spoke out after Romauld Ferreira, minister of the environment and housing, last week said the cabinet is close to reaching a conclusion that could increase the country's aragonite mining revenue.
He added that his ministry received an economic report on the subject earlier this year, which the Minnis administration has been analysing in conjunction with geological reports conducted in the past.
The Government earned a $2 per metric ton royalty when the Sandy Cay Development Company mined aragonite off Ocean Cay near Bimini, prior to the Christie administration's deal with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) for that island to become a private cruise port.
Mr Ferreira suggested royalty revenues could increase from $40,000 per annum to $2.5m, with aragonite used to produce cement, glass containers, auto glass, soil, acid, neutralising animal and poultry seed.
"We believe the revenue can be more than $2.5m. What has happened to the revenue we have been receiving from the Sandy Cay Development? Has any of it touched the sovereign wealth fund and, if not, when is it going to be established so we can have accountability? We are not just talking about jobs here; we are talking about ownership of industries and our natural resources," said Ms Munnings.