Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labour.
Photo: Lionel Smith
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE announcing in June that the Minnis administration would have a renegotiated Oban Energies deal in a matter of weeks, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said yesterday the government is still looking to pin down a firm date to rework the Heads of Agreement.
Speaking with reporters before Cabinet’s weekly meeting yesterday morning, Mr Foulkes, who co-chairs the Cabinet subcommittee looking into Oban, revealed a negotiation team has been appointed to renegotiate the HOA with the principals of Oban Energies, but noted no official date had been set to start those negotiations.
Mr Foulkes said in the interim, the government has adopted a technical report produced by the technical branch of his sub-committee.
According to Mr Foulkes, the technical team is composed of three Grand Bahamians who worked in the industry.
“We are currently in the process of notifying the principals and speaking to the negotiation team to get our terms of reference,” he told the press.
“I don’t want to go beyond that until I can get some specific information as to when we are going to start the renegotiation. We have a proposed date for January but, I have not spoken to the principals, nor the renegotiation team yet, so I do not want to release that information,” Mr Foulkes added.
The government’s initial agreement with Oban Energies sparked intense criticism, including points of opposition from several environmental organisations that took issue with lack of an environmental impact assessment, given the project’s risk factors.
The fallout prompted an admission from Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis that there were gross missteps in the government process.
“While our heart was in the right place, these missteps should not have happened. We must, we can and we will do better,” Dr Minnis said in March.
In the months following that admission, various Cabinet members have hinted at key improvements that would be made with a new HOA, but nothing concrete has been presented.
Oban Energies has reportedly spent $10m on the project so far, according to its president, Satpal Dhunna, who said a significant amount of those funds were used to nail down the best location.
Oban is proposing a $5.5bn oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.