By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamas-based aragonite miner yesterday vehemently denied it had any links to a Mexican company claiming it has the necessary approvals to export “aragonite sand” from a location called “Sandy Cay”.
Anthony Myers, Sandy Cay Development Company’s principal, told Tribune Business that it had no connection whatsoever to Oceanus International despite the latter claiming it has “concessions and permits” to dredge from a location of this name.
Mr Myers explained that the area where his firm used to conduct aragonite mining was called “Sandy”, but it ceased all such activity off Ocean Cay - the man-made island near Bimini - when it accepted compensation and exited its lease to make way for Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (MSC) private cruise island.
He spoke out after Oceanus International, in a posting since scrubbed from its website, alleged: “We have concessions and permits to extract aragonite sand from Sandy Cay in The Bahamas. We can fill a hopper boat to ship and export to any port in the world. This is ideal for beach recovery projects and artificial beaches.”
Mr Myers revealed that the posting spurred him to make inquiries, and he added: “We do not know this company, and are not aware at all of their activities in The Bahamas. When we saw their advertisements on their website, we called Oceanus International in Mexico and we contacted them by e-mail asking them for an explanation of the aragonite supply.
“The secretary declined to answer us, and then Oceanus sent us an e-mail saying that they do not sell aragonite and only crushed limestone sand. They did not explain why their web site says that they do.”
Oceanus International’s “activities” were questioned by the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) deputy leader, Chester Cooper, who challenged the Government to produce information surrounding any granting of leases to this company if it did.
Mr Myers, meanwhile, added: “We also found that Van Oord, the Dutch dredging company, is one of their partners. This is the same company that that worked on the Coral Harbour Defense Force harbour and entrance channel expansion.
“I know Van Oord, and called and spoke to the area manager, Mark Roelofs, who was also totally surprised and said unequivocally that Van Oord has nothing to do with Oceanus and that they shall ask them to remove Van Oord’s name from the website.”
“As far as we can tell this is a total fabrication by this company, Oceanus, and we have no idea why they have done this. I can assure you that Sandy Cay Development have not in any way sub-leased, sub-let, rented, contracted or anything else to this company, or any other company for that matter. We are as surprised as you and the general public are.”
A Bahamas Investment Authority (BIS) also told Tribune Business yesterday: “We have no record of Oceanus International.”
Mr Myers said his company purchased the original lease for Ocean Cay from AES, the US energy firm, after its plans to develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) and storage terminal on the island failed to materialise.
Mr Myers said: “The original lease had been in existence from the 1960s, and was more recently operated by the Steve Dowd family of Orlando, Florida, who operated under the company name of Marcona Ocean Industries. They operated the lease and the island, Ocean Cay, for many years up until they sold it to AES in or around 2000.
“In 2012, Sandy Cay Development Ltd renegotiated the aragonite harvesting lease with Department of Lands and Surveys and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. We paid a significantly higher royalty to the Government of the Bahamas than that which was paid on the old lease prior to 2012.
“The Free National Movement government negotiated a royalty rate with us that was five to 10 times’ higher than that in the historic aragonite mining lease document enjoyed by our predecessors. In March 2016 we released Ocean Cay, along with some 50 square miles of sea bed, for MSC Cruises to develop an eco-tourism cruise ship terminal.
“Both MSC and Sandy Cay Development spent a great deal of money cleaning up the island and making it a first-class resort area. The clean-up and transformation of the island is magnificent, and a great positive environmental testimony to both the private sector and the Government in cleaning up The Bahamas.”
As to his company’s name, Mr Myers said: “We just happened to call our company Sandy Cay, but Sandy Cay has nothing to do with the location as our company is called Sandy Cay Development.” He added that there are “hundreds” of islands in The Bahamas called Sandy Cay, and that Ocean Cay was changed to its current name some 50 plus years ago.
“Sandy Cay is the one up in Freeport, Grand Bahama, so we have nothing to do with that. When I saw the history on Ocean Cay, not knowing about Sandy Cay up in Freeport, I called my company Sandy Cay Development, but it has nothing to do with Freeport. It’s just the area we have south of Cat Cay and around Ocean Cay,” Mr Myers added.