Groups demand more aragonite royalties
BY TANEKA THOMPSON
Guardian Senior Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) President John Pinder yesterday called on the government to increase the royalties it receives from aragonite mining.
Pinder estimated that the government could pocket as much as $300 million per month, or $4.2 billion a year, if it renegotiated its aragonite royalties to no less than $350 per metric ton.
The government currently receives $2 per metric ton of aragonite exported out of the country, Pinder claimed.
Pinder said the increased revenue could pay off the national debt and negate the need for new taxes, such as the proposed value-added tax (VAT).
“I’m deeply shocked and aggrieved to find that successive governments of The Bahamas, starting from the UBP, the FNM and the PLP, have all done us a disservice by signing a contract and giving away the natural resources of our country for pittance,” said Pinder at a press conference in Rawson Square.
Members of the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition, the Police Staff Association and the Prison Officers Association attended.
They support Pinder’s call for increased aragonite royalties.
Aragonite is a naturally occurring, valuable carbonate mineral.
Pinder said aragonite is sold at $900 a metric ton.
“We believe that certainly the government can do much better than that, as the country is strapped for cash at this time and a number of things are needed and the government does not have funds to do these things,” he said.
Currently, the only major aragonite mining operation exists on Ocean Cay.
That project is carried out by Sandy Cay Development Company Limited under a 25-year lease initiated in 2010.
Among the companies that Sandy Cay Development Company supplies is U.S. Aragonite Enterprises LLC, which produces a plastic product known as Oshenite.
Pinder said his union understands that the government’s contract with the company for aragonite export expires on June 3, 2014.
“We are asking the government in its new negotiations on the royalties on aragonite coming out of Ocean Cay, to not receive less than $350 a metric ton.”
Pinder added: “We believe if the government is able to accomplish this, we are talking about paying off our national debt in 18 months.
“We’re talking about moving from being borrowers to lenders. What China is to the world today is what The Bahamas could be to the Caribbean.”
He added that revenue from increased aragonite royalties could be used to pay every Bahamian at least $50,000 within 18 months of adjusting the terms.
“We are asking the government before it presents its budget to the House of Assembly this month to please insert what revenues we will receive from aragonite so that the country is able to move forward in a more positive way,” Pinder said.
When contacted for comment, Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett said the details surrounding aragonite mining, including increasing the royalties the government receives, are under consideration.
The Nassau Island Development Company plans to meet with residents of east Grand Bahama tonight to discuss an aragonite proposal.
The company said it has submitted a proposal to the government to develop a $50 million aragonite facility.
May 07, 2014