The Fight for Aragonite. Is it Worth Billions?
A group of Bahamians led by Lincoln Bain, and backed by Centerville MP Reece Chipman assembled in Parliament Square on Wednesday morning, calling for the government to open investigations into the exportation of aragonite out of the country.
The big picture?
It is alleged that governments over the years have permitted only foreign companies to benefit from the sale of aragonite, which some people claim is worth millions of dollars and can add to the country’s economy, creating a new industry.
What they say
- In its first gathering Down Town, group leader Lincoln Bain said the government should do what is right, saying, “We come in peace. When we come back, it will be a different story.”
- He held up a black folder, containing what he says is, “evidence of the proposed document.”
- He continued, “We know the value of our natural resources. You have been exploiting it. You have been mining it. You have been spending millions of dollars behind these same natural resources. And we know the truth.”
- He said some U.S companies “may have been doing some things they should not have been doing” and the government should release reports on what companies have been mining.
- Bain said he reported the matter to the Federal Trade Commission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he could not get help from the Bahamas government.
What Environment Minister Romould Ferreira has said
- In 2018, a white paper was to be presented to Cabinet on aragonite. He said a study was to be conducted to determine the economic value and sustainability of the product.
- Ferreira said recommendations for the sustainable use of aragonite will be put forth because it is not sustainable over a human life span, saying it takes 100-2000 years for a grain to form.
- He said the Bahamas can make more royalties from aragonite, but it will not make everyone a billionaire.
Ferreira explains the process of development of aragonite
- In June 2020, Ferreira estimated that 12,266 – 23,354 million metric tons of aragonite exist in the Bahamas.
- Studies show that depending on the location, the grain of aragonite is of a different size. This happens because each grain of aragonite has an inner nuclear grain that gets coated with calcium carbonate. The more it gets coated the heavier it becomes, eventually falling to the seafloor.
- “For example, aragonite from Cat Cay, Berry Island, Tongue of the Ocean and Eleuthera take 160 years. Aragonite from Lilly Bank takes 296 years to form, that from the Bight of Acklins, 740 years.”
US Company Dillingham Corporation mined since 1970’s
- The Dillingham Corporation of Honolulu had a concession to mine aragonite in a sea bottom area of more than 5.2 million acres — an area nearly twice the size of Connecticut in the Bahamas.
- The rights to the mining were originally granted by the Bahamian Government to the American Museum of Natural History.
- Dr. Thomas D. Nicholson, director of a conservation movement, said, “It was strictly a commercial venture. We thought we had something marketable and we went ahead and sold it. Maybe some fish might be disturbed but they could probably find someplace else.”
By-products of aragonite