Govt has not reviewed or approved a multimillion-dollar proposal for aragonite mining and trade zone
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday assured that the government will not approve a free trade zone in Andros and insisted his administration will not sell vast tracks of Bahamian land.
Minnis comments come amidst growing public concern over several draft proposals to develop major parts of North Andros – two of which would require aragonite mining.
One of the draft proposals puts forth plans for a multimillion-dollar development of an air-sea manufacturing/commercial park; a 10,000-foot international runway and terminal, with police, customs, emergency services, and immigration; and a deep water international port, also with law enforcement.
The Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement last week acknowledging that the draft proposal was submitted.
Minnis however insisted that it has “not been formally analyzed nor reviewed to determine its viability, nor has it been presented to the National Economic Council for consideration”.
“I have been disappointed to see how this issue has been misused by the opposition to sow confusion in our country,” he said.
“Let me be very clear for all to hear, this government will not grant a free-trade zone in Andros.
“Nor will we alienate or sell-off vast tracts of Bahamas land as a previous PLP administration allowed in Mayaguana, when 10,000 acres was alienated to a foreign group. My government has not approved the proposal.
“We welcome Bahamian and foreign investors submitting proposals that are win-wins for the people of The Bahamas and for the investors.”
The prime minister added that while The Bahamas is in need of all the appropriate investments it can get, given the current economic hardship, the government will not approve concepts from Bahamians or foreigners that are not in the best interest of the Bahamian people.
“Do not allow yourself to be confused by those who went to Grand Bahama last week, behaving as if they were the government duly elected by the Bahamian people,” Minnis continued.
“As a people, we must remain focused on the twin crises in front of us. COVID-19 has caused a health crisis and an economic crisis. And we are still rebuilding Ragged Island, and Abaco, the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama following Hurricane Dorian.”
Last week, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) voiced concerns over the unofficial and incomplete development proposals in North Andros.
BNT Executive Director Eric Carey said the proposals for aragonite mining and commercial development pose significant impact to the environment, including five of six protected national parks on the island.
According to the proposal submitted last September, the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone project would be modeled after the 1955 Hawksbill Creek Agreement – which gives the Grand Bahama Port Authority responsible for the development, administration, and management in the Port Area.
It would also include a medical research center with a clinic; an eco-tourism destination including cruise ship berths, hotel, village, restaurants, beach; and an Economic Center with retail, commercial and residential lots.
However, a critical part of the project would include the processing and manufacturing of limestone from the development and aragonite harvesting from the Joulter Cays Sand Bank area.
This project has been vastly opposed by some Androsians and environmentalists.
The Progressive Liberal Party has also called on the government to reject the Andros proposals, insisting that investment in the country must be driven by “Bahamians first” philosophy.