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Resorts World anticipates permits ‘any day now’

Company says it submitted environmental impact assessment months ago
Guardian Business Editor

Published: Sep 30, 2013

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Resorts World Bimini submitted its environmental impact assessment (EIA) to the government several months ago, and has received approval to carry out its plans to construct a pier conditional on the submission of an environmental management plan, its director of public affairs has stated.

In a statement released over the weekend, Director of Public Affairs Michelle Malcolm said the company is mobilizing teams in anticipation of receiving construction permits applied for "any day now".

Malcolm released a short statement disclosing the submission of the EIA and the status of permits after Guardian Business was informed by Minister of Tourism and MP for Bimini Obie Wilchcombe that he was surprised at the use of the term "mobilization" by Resorts World Bimini with respect to its construction plans in a recent release put out by the company.

He said the company had not received permits to go ahead with building a pier, and no such project could move ahead before key documents were in the hands of the government.

Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey also expressed "deep concern" over the statement issued by Resorts World Bimini on Thursday in which it indicated that it was "mobilizing" for the construction of the new pier, which is intended to allow the Bimini Superfast Ferry operated by Resorts World Bimini to dock on the island.

Carey said the environmental organization's fears arose from the fact that they had yet to see the EIA submitted in relation to this project, which is believed to be set to take place in an area of great ecological sensitivity, and which many Biminites have reportedly complained of knowing little about, according to stakeholder group, the Bimini Blue Coalition and the BNT.

The BNT's alleged inability to access the document to date has led some such as environmental attorney Romauld Ferreira and Fred Smith QC. of Callenders and Co. to suggest the case represents a key example of the need for a Freedom of Information Act.

Resorts World Bimini is planning a $150 million investment in the island, where it took over the Bimini Bay Resort in March of this year.

In its statement released Thursday about the status of the project, Resorts World Bimini said: "Following the ground-breaking ceremony held several weeks ago with Resorts World officials and attended by Prime Minister of The Bahamas the Hon. Perry G. Christie, site preparation and preliminary work is underway for the construction of Resorts World Bimini’s new marina hotel and the mobilization of teams and equipment to support works for the island’s new pier, signaling the ongoing commitment to its development plans and investments for the island of Bimini and The Bahamas."

The developers said they would "work very closely with the Ministry of Environment, BEST Commission and other relevant government agencies to ensure that best practices are followed and to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

“The construction of a new pier means our guests will have more direct access to the island and additional time to explore on shore,” says Resorts World Bimini President Dana Leibovitz. “That translates into more tourist spending, more jobs for Biminites and more appreciation for Bimini’s natural habitat, which is among the island’s chief assets," said Leibovitz.

Malcolm said submissions were made to the government in April and May of 2013.

"You are welcomed to contact the relevant agency the Bahamas Environment Science and Technlogy Commission (BEST) or the Ministry of the Environment, for details," added the director. The BNT has repeatedly asserted that it has been unable to access any EIAs relating to the latest Bimini development plans.

Malcolm added that teams are mobilizing "in anticipation of receiving the construction permits, [Resorts World] has applied for any day now, and also based on its expedited construction schedule."

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