1

Symonette Andros mining proposal rejected by Gov’t

  • No reasons why application ‘refused’ 

  • Would create initial 160-job impact

  • Three EIAs done; site moved twice

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Government has rejected the North Andros mining and land reclamation project proposed by the Symonette Group’s principal that would have created an initial 160 jobs and extra $100,00 per week spending impact.

Phylicia Hanna-Woods, the Government’s director of investments, informed the Bahamian attorney for Cameron Symonette and his business partner, Ted Baker, on August 30 that the Davis administration’s National Economic Council (NEC) had “refused” to grant the necessary approvals for the project to move forward.

No reasons for the decision were provided in the short three paragraph letter sent by the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) to Bryan Glinton, attorney and partner at the Glinton, Sweeting & O’Brien law firm, who represents Bahamas Materials Company and Morgan’s Bluff Development Group.

“Reference is made to the application submitted on behalf of your clients, Bahamas Materials Company and Morgan’s Bluff Development Group, requesting approval for the captioned project,” Mrs Hanna-Woods wrote, citing the North Andros Mine and Land Reclamation Project.

“I am to advise that the National Economic Council at its recent meeting refused the application to establish an inland mining operation situated on Crown Land in the northern part of Andros.” Tribune Business inquiries established that the letter, which it obtained yesterday, is genuine.

Mr Symonette declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business yesterday. However, sources familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly, said that while the Symonette Group chief executive and Mr Baker were “hugely disappointed” in the Government’s decision they are not ready to give up on their limestone aggregate mining and land reclamation ambitions just yet.

It is understood they plan to ask the Government to set out the reasons for why the project was rejected, which will enable them to address any concerns or outstanding questions that the NEC and BIA officials have in a bid to remove any approvals obstacles that remain. Mrs Hanna-Woods’ letter, short and to the point, gives no explanation at all.

“Nobody has communicated a reason to them, and there are thousands of people in North Andros this creates opportunities for. They don’t see any competing opportunities,” one source familiar with the situation told this newspaper.

The Bahamas Materials Company and Morgan’s Bluff Development Group principals have invested significant time and resources in building support for their proposal in the North Andros communities that would benefit most from it. Mr Symonette and his representatives held a Town Meeting on the project in Lowe Sound on August 23, just one week before the Government’s rejection, during which they voiced disappointment at the “misinformation” on their plans.

“We still are challenged with getting factual information out to people,” one told attendees. “There’s still a challenge with misinformation, and sometimes intentional misinformation.” The sources of this “intentional misinformation” were not identified, with Mr Symonette focusing on explaining the project’s economic and social impacts to North Androsians, as well as answer all questions they had, during an hour-long event.

“Simply put, what Ted and I are proposing to do is mine limestone in North Andros to use as building materials in New Providence and the US,” the Symonette Group chief explained. “As the mining phases is completed...., that enhances the real estate value. We have set out a phased plan for development.

“How does Andros benefit from what we’re proposing? First and foremost, there’s the employment. We intend to hire 160 people over the first few years of the project, and these are careers that will pay an average of $1,000 a week. These are not seasonal careers or careers that will be affected by COVID. These are careers that pay every week of the year and last for decades. The hope is we will provide careers for you and your family for many decades to come.

“We are confident these positions can be filled by North Androsians, and we intend to provide fully funded training both here in North Andros and internationally as required.” Mr Symonette also pledged that “for every tonne we mine” a royalty fee will be generated and placed into a foundation so that the monies remain in North Andros “and benefit the entire community”, helping to finance hurricane shelters and other physical improvements.

This “funding mechanism” would be directed and controlled by North Andros residents, he added, while explaining that himself and Mr Baker are “seeking to lease.. and now own” the 5,200 acre site they are targeting for their calcium carbonate/limestone. The site in question is the now-disused former Water & Sewerage Corporation wellfield site, which has been contaminated by salt water due to hurricane-related storm surges in years past.

The Water & Sewerage Corporation also stopped barging water to New Providence over 15 years ago. Bahamas Materials Company plans to divide the site into sections, mining one at a time over an eight-year period, with the entire mining operation projected to last 55 years. As each section is completed, land will be reclaimed and made available for real estate development.

Morgan’s Bluff Development Group will be the entity responsible for the real estate side, and Mr Symonette confirmed the intention to create “shareholding opportunities” for Bahamians and North Androsians in this company if the project is given approval to proceed.

At the meeting, he also identified spin-off entrepreneurial opportunities that would be created for North Androsians by Bahamas Materials Company’s activities such as concrete block and ready-mix plants. And the additional $100,00 per week injected into the North Andros economy by the development and its employees would boost the likes of gas stations, food stores and barbers.

Some $53m in wages would be paid over the project’s first ten years if approved, while economic diversification and foreign exchange export earnings will also receive a boost. “The project is not going to be concerned with the ocean,” Mr Symonette told the Lowe Sound meeting.

“This is an inland project by design, and we believe that decision is paramount for the health of the fresh water lens in North Andros. Environmental protection is where we have done the most work. In the last few years we have installed 53 test wells in North Andros and around the project area to-date. We have completed three Environmental Impact Assessments, and have moved the project twice as a result.

“We are not seeking to own Morgan’s Bluff. We are not seeking to mine Morgan’s Bluff. We are not seeking to take over and monopolise Morgan’s Bluff. This is a public port that should remain in public hands. We’ve put that in writing to the Government of The Bahamas.”

Mr Symonette reiterated to attendees that Bahamas Materials Company’s proposal was an economic, and not a political, project. “This is not an FNM project, this is not a PLP project. This is a project that will last many decades through both FNM and PLP administrations. It needs to be completely supported and understood by Androsians on both sides of the political divide.” 

Comments

realitycheck242 4 months, 4 weeks ago

This is the best decision the PLP government has made to date. The historical record of this company principals along generational lines has been to plunder and destroy valuable Bahamian land starting with New providence and Grand Bahama They have layed waste to many thousands of acres of hills and destroyed many water tables and caused freeport and pinewood gardens to flood in many areas that was not possible before they moved all the fill and dug all those canals in FP. Bahamians are wiseing up to their greed. They glossed up this new proposal for Andros but it goes against the Government's green policy initiatives and the views expressed by the PM in many settings for the Bahamas natural resources to be used as carbon credit's revenue producing addition to the Bahamas economy. This has gain significant importance in this time of climate change. Andros is the Bahamas last land based frontier. We must not allow the few to promise some hand outs and put Andros in the same position that freeport is in today.

2

ThisIsOurs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Ah just reading your comment so it IS "cutting down all the hills" in fancy terms. I cant believe ANYBODY, ANY Bahamian would have the gall to put forward such a proposal in 2022 and be baffled as to why a govt thought it was a bad idea. Im almost certain if Minnis were in power it would have been approved but he also single handedly jumped through hoops to approve Oban. You jave to wonder why. It was almost as if his pocket depended on it. Possibly the only time he had an all out revolt of cabinet ministers on his hand

But this, this one is epic. a business plan to cut down high ground on populated (with living breathing people, possibly your mummy brother children 3rd removed) sinking islands

2

themessenger 4 months, 4 weeks ago

You got your subdivisions and developers mixed up like conch salad. Pinewood Gardens was developed by Frankie "Snake" Wilson, not the Symonettes and is one of the biggest residential disaster areas in the country whenever it rains. And our simpletons in goverment keep pouring taxpayers money down the storm drain trying to drain Frankie's swamp Those people in Andros don't need Symonette money, they got the government, let them eat cake!

1

realitycheck242 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Frankie developed pinewood after the Symonette group and Ted Baxter excavated the fill. Just watch the documentary produced Lincoln Bain and Bahamian Evolution on the history of Pinewood.

1

birdiestrachan 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Did the people of Andros want this development? all that glitters is not gold for the common people once the land and seas have been raped and destroyed. the developers go away and leave the natives to face the consequences Nature rebels

2

ThisIsOurs 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Is "limestone aggregate mining" a fancy term for cutting down hills? Or is it something else completely?

"what Ted and I are proposing to do is mine limestone in North Andros to use as building materials in New Providence and the US,” Cuz it sounds like cutting down hills...

1

Porcupine 4 months, 3 weeks ago

I think all the barbers that will be employed, is well worth the destruction of our largest island.

1

Flyingfish 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Lol, What did the symonette group expect. For them to get all this land because they can give people jobs. This is no Baha Mar, the amount of environmental destruction, lack of long term benefits, the job to land use ratio, and the lack of any meaningful development from this proposal is why it deserved to fail.

I mean yes politics drive money in this country as it does others but they really think this got rejected because they is FNM. If they proposed to cut down the forest for wood again they might get a better chance than this garbage. At least, then they would have to replant the trees.

Furthermore, most mining operations in developed countries pay benefits on the other hand mining operations in developing countries cause mass corruption especially when the country is economically dependent on the resources.

Lastly, for them to even have a hope of the project being WIDELY supported they need to release the environmental impact to the wider public via the internet. Until people can assess for themselves what is gonna happen they can't support the so called facts.

0

M0J0 4 months, 3 weeks ago

lol they already thought the cash was in hand man, lol

0

RumRunnin 4 months, 3 weeks ago

“There’s still a challenge with misinformation, and sometimes intentional misinformation.” The sources of this “intentional misinformation” were not identified, ...".

It's annoying to some when common sense prevails.

"As each section is completed, land will be reclaimed and made available for real estate development." If there's no mining then there's no need for reclamation! Problem solved.

0

ThisIsOurs 4 months, 3 weeks ago

yup. the hills called, they say they just fine without our help.

1

Sign in to comment