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'Minnis Can Shut Country But Not Escape Oil Deal?'

The Stena IceMAX.

The Stena IceMAX.

* Activists plan 'welcoming committee' for drill ship

* Say PM's anti-exploration stance 'awfully late'

* BPC shrugs off court threat with extra $20m

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas Petroleum Company's (BPC) oil drilling ship will this morning likely face "a welcoming committee", as one activist charged: "The PM can shut the country down but not get out of a bad oil deal?"

photo

Sam Duncombe

Sam Duncombe, reEarth's president, told Tribune Business that oil exploration opponents planned to greet the Stena IceMAX with protests - COVID-19 curfews and restrictions permitting - after the vessel docks in Freeport at "daylight" this morning.

Acknowledging that the 10pm to 5am curfew will likely make it impossible to greet the drilling ship when it arrives at around 3am, Mrs Duncombe added that the Prime Minister's voicing of his personal opposition to oil exploration in Bahamian waters was welcome "but awfully late".

"We were planning a welcoming committee inviting them to go home," she said of the Stena IceMAX, adding that a further protest was planned for Nassau this coming weekend in conjunction with the Raising Awareness of The Bahamas Landfill (RABL) group at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

Promising that location and other details will be revealed closer to the time, Mrs Duncombe told this newspaper: "We want to encourage Bahamians to fight for the things we feel are correct. The fact we were misled in May 2018 [by Romauld Ferreira, minister of the environment], and now the Prime Minister has come out saying he's against oil drilling......

"Obviously that's music to our ears, but at the same time it's awfully late. The reality is that the Prime Minister had the authority to shut down the entire country for the better part of a year, so I don't see why we cannot get out of a really bad oil deal."

Mrs Duncombe's comments refer to Dr Hubert Minnis' frequent imposition of life-changing COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews, set against his assertion that the administration received legal advice from the Attorney General's Office that it is "saddled with an agreement.... we could not get out of" when it comes to BPC's oil drilling plans.

Carl Bethel QC, the attorney general, backed the Prime Minister's position yesterday. He added that while Mr Ferreira believed BPC had failed to fulfill its licence obligations, and was thus "timed out" and that the agreements should be rescinded, Mr Bethel said a legal review found that these delays and unmet conditions had been caused by the Government.

In particular, BPC was forced to endure a long wait while the new regulatory regime for the petroleum industry and offshore oil exploration was put in place. This was finally completed by the Christie administration in 2016, and BPC's licences have been extended ever since through to mid-2021 despite the company and government having yet to settle outstanding fees.

Mrs Duncombe, though, said of the Prime Minister's position: "The leader of the country telling you he doesn't want you here, that gives a lot of courage to a lot of people. If they could shut down the country for a year they could shut down a bad oil deal. It's mind boggling."

And Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner representing the activists in their challenge to BPC's licences and permits, yesterday urged Mr Bethel to make the Government's legal advice available to the public and Supreme Court for the Judicial Review.

"If it's determined that the Government does not have an obligation with respect to those licences, then there's nothing to stop them considering extracting The Bahamas from this foolhardy, environmentally risky business," he told Tribune Business.

"This would be an enlightened opportunity for the Government to put all its cards on the table so people can see what this deal with BPC is all about. I find it odd that they say they are bound by these agreements."

Mr Smith added that he was also "heartened" by Mr Bethel's indication that BPC's licence agreements will be disclosed as part of the Judicial Review "discovery" process, and said: "Hopefully the Bahamian public will come to know what deal was struck behind closed doors, and in secret.

"The Bahamian people have a right to know what commercial contracts, of a paradigm shift in economic nature, the Government has struck with foreign companies that affect their future. The days of privileged oligarchic secrecy are over."

Activists, though, are rapidly running out of time to block BPC's drilling plans via Judicial Review challenge in the Supreme Court. An itinerary for the Stena IceMAX, dated September 9, 2020, reveals it plans to head for the drill site in waters 90 miles west of Andros as early as Thursday this week once essential supplies and all crew arrive over the next two days.

"The objective is to be ready to spud within 24 hours of arriving at the drilling location," the document confirms, indicating that BPC remains on target to begin drilling its Perseverance One exploratory well by Sunday, December 20, unless Waterkeepers Bahamas and the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay successfully persuade the courts to intervene.

The court action has so far proved no obstacle to BPC's continued capital raising to obtain the finance necessary to undergird its activities in both The Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago. The company, in a statement to the markets, totally ignored the legal threat by saying its Bahamian well will begin "imminently" after it accessed up to $20m in new funding from a "European alternative asset manager".

BPC, in a move that dilutes existing shareholders, including Bahamian investors in the mutual fund it created, is issuing 375m new shares to this "asset manager" at 2 UK pence per share in return for $10m upfront.

The oil explorer added that it also has the option to raise a further $5m from the same investor "within ten business days after the spud of the Perseverance One well" on the same terms, and can also seek an additional $5m on top of that for a grand total of $20m.

Should it raise the extra $10m from this "asset manager", BPC will have a $57.5m financial war chest and sufficient funding to just about cover both its planned Bahamian and Trinidadian activities - estimated to cover $55m at the top end - going into 2021.

"The company has, as previously announced, a planned 2021 work programme in Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname of between $15m and $25m, and a remaining cost associated with the Perseverance One well, net of amounts already prepaid, in the order of $19m-$23m (plus an identified $7m contingency, which may be fully required, in part, or not at all)," it added.

BPC's financial arrangements appear increasingly tied to seeing off the Judicial Review challenge quickly, as another £3m in financing from another source "has been committed, subject to spudding of Perseverance One by 28 December, 2020".

photo

Simon Potter

Simon Potter, BPC's chief executive, said in a statement: "2021 will be a busy year for BPC in pursuing operations that have the potential to create considerable value for the company..... In The Bahamas, we have the transformational Perseverance One well for which operations are expected to commence imminently.

"We are thus extremely pleased to have secured a further $10 million of immediate equity funding, along with the option to expand that to $15m and potentially to receive a total $20m from a leading European institutional investor.

"Not only will this additional liquidity, consistent with our overall funding strategy, give us the flexibility to continue to pursue an aggressive growth agenda at a pace determined by the company, but we consider this funding at this time to be a strong vote of confidence in BPC and the value embedded in the totality of our portfolio."

Comments

Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

Sam Duncombe is exactly right on this. You can shut down a whole country, but can't stop this suicidal activity? NONSENSE! AG Bethel is obviously not for Bahamians, not for the healthy existence of this country. He should be ousted by The People. Simon Potter deserves to be banned from The Bahamas for his "imminent" drilling, despite the clear wishes of Bahamians. This is a scheme. A scheme that may well cost us our country. Is this alarmist? Sure, to those who can see only money, for themselves. If this drilling moves forward, it will be a nail in the coffin of this country. Unfortunately, this seems now in the hands of the judiciary. A group of people I have little to no faith in.

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tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

It's all too obvious that certain very deceitful and financially greedy individuals well entrenched within both our past and current corrupt political elite are among those who like to think they have big horses in this preposterous oil drilling race. And it's now not too difficult to suspect Christie, Davis and Minnis, yes even Minnis, are chief among them. That's the only way things could have reached this ridiculous point.

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

Quite sadly, I think you are right.

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DDK 1 month, 1 week ago

Avaricious, selfish, short-sighted gangsters, the lot of them. I wouldn't like to tell you what kind of a welcoming mat they deserve. Well, actually I would but.........

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

Are Columbus Pillow and 7Bananas onboard Stena?

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jackbnimble 1 month, 1 week ago

Y’all slow. That speech about being against oil drilling is sham. The PM is in election mode people and anything will be said or done to get back in. They are in bed with these people!

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

No. I think we see it. Just wishin' it weren't so.

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

It looks like it was a well-timely justification have scheduled the firing of KP to be placed out the way to enable the governor-general to administer Mr. Minister as the Colony's substantive holder the finance portfolio for 'Em's' be self-issued with an entire book of 488 blank cheques, drawn on the PopoulacesPurse, which is at the ready to fund em's out scouting for committal votes, whilst hopping from out island to out island - whilst spending like a general election Santa Clause. Shakehead a quick once for upyeahvote, a slow twice for no?

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islandboy 1 month, 1 week ago

This country needs money. All these people who saying we shouldn't drill for oil ean makin no sense. Why leave money in the ground. If the government going to make 25% off any oil found then that's less VAT and other taxes we have to pay. Only rich people can be environmentalists. Y'all can't be suffering like most of us who been without jobs for months and eating fire engine every day. Let the people dem at least drill to see if anything there. I read up and it says they only gat a 35% chance of finding anything so I don't understand what all this noise about. Chances are they aint ga find nothing but at least they should check to see if we have anything. The govment could then try to renegotiate on what the payout will be. Yinna people who living out west in ya big house ain't feeling no pressure. This country needs money!!!!!

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tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

You clearly don't understand why the vast majority of citizens of most oil rich small nations are dirt poor.

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

The country has had billions and billions. It has been pissed away. As it will be again. Get real.

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

The money pipeline will stop right at the lawyer and accountants offices. Sure more of them will need maids and security guards after they make their millions. So theres that...

As to needing real jobs.. this isnt the way. They want you to believe it because it benefits them. The path to real wealth in this country is using what's in our heads. Unfortunately there is a real effort to block such ventures. They want you dumb and dependent. Try proposing a viable idea and watch them steal it, bungle the implementation and not even realize the depth of the bungle. villianize the thinkers. We will transform our country by using our minds.

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

You are exactly right, my friend. We have squandered a plethora of creativity, innovation, and dreams. We do this to ourselves. Sad.

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ROMERBOY 1 month ago

And lots of money fast before the unwanted arrive. Ms. Duncombe seems to have no worries. Should an environmental activist have to worry about life? One like SDuncombe is a pretentiousness tree hugger that receives substantial donations. Don't ask from who or where just the perks of falling under-profit.

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exclusivezayy239 2 weeks, 2 days ago

you are supid imma 13 yr old this oil drilling don't make any sense , we should find a better way to make money cuzz when that oil spill the gvt can't afford to clear up ... the bahamas is slowly becoming haiti

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Bahama7 1 month, 1 week ago

Porky - no my son, I am on dry land.

Merry Christmas to you and let’s hope we strike black gold in the new year.

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

By we, I know you mean you and your sleezy oil friends. There ain't nothing in it for the people of The Bahamas. And, you know it.

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Bahama7 1 month, 1 week ago

Any oil revenue goes into a soverign wealth fund. I understand that fund is only to be used for infrastructure spending after hurricanes etc.

The government shoukd make all this clear...

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tribanon 1 month, 1 week ago

You're so full of it that it's not only just oozing out of the orifice on your tail, but also every orifice on your head. lol

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Porcupine 1 month, 1 week ago

Whether oil is found, or not, the "we" are flucked. You will be long gone.

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 1 week ago

The problem with our black leaders is they love money above all else. Having money doesnt make you evil. Its when you love money above all else and would do anything to get it, thats the foundation of evil. and it's personified over and over again in every single administration including this one. How the Oban deal get sign?

Anybody with mega money is given an all access pass to the Bahamas For Sale Private Marketplace. The marketplace offers precious gems like our islands, our crown land, our govt contracts, our environment and sexual exploitation of our men, women and children. If you have mega millions and dont want anybody messing in your business or getting in your way, you've come to the right place. The CEO of Albany told the PM so just 2years ago.

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