|Environmental Appraisal of a Proposed Aragonite Mining Operation and Other Proposed Activities at West Cacois Island - Rreport to the Government of the Turks and Cacois Islands, British West Indies (LRDC/NRI, 1985, 76 pages)|
Purpose of Study
1. The study is to examine environmental consequences of aragonite mining and other possible developments on West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands and recommended appropriate environmental protection measures.
2. In September 1982 Government signed an agreement with Continental Mining and Dredging Co. Ltd. allowing the Company to explore the Caicos Banks for aragonite. Under the terms of this agreement the Company is required to provide Government with full details of the exploratory operations, and, in respect of any firm proposals to mine, to commission and pay for an environmental study. A copy of the terms of reference for such an environmental study is attached. (APPENDIX A).
3. As a result of its exploration the Company concluded that the mining of aragonite off the north coast of West Caicos with an on-shore base would be economically feasible and, in accordance with the agreement, commissioned Wapora Inc. of Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA to undertake an environmental study of the project.
4. This was carried out during June, July and August 1983 and a report of the findings was submitted to Government at the end of August 1983. The findings were that no serious adverse damage to the environment would be caused by the mining but that regular monitoring should be undertaken.
5. At the end of 1983 an economic and engineering feasibility report on the exploratory operations was submitted to Government. The requirements for this study are attached. (APPENDIX B.)*
*Not reproduced here
6. In early 1984 the Company sought and obtained outline planning permission for the land based operation of the project. The permission is conditional on a fully detailed application, taking into account all relevant social and environmental factors, being submitted to and approved by the Planning and Development Authority. Approval to the marine operation is specifically excluded from the permission.
7. Subsequently, new legislation has been drafted which inter alia provides that the mining operations require the consent of the FDA. A copy of the draft bill is attached. (APPENDIX C).*
*Not reproduced here
8. In March 1984 Government concluded a mining agreement with Continental Mining and Dredging Co. Ltd. The agreement recognises the need to have environmental safeguards in subsequent detailed planning consents and specifically requires these to be observed.
9. The present study is intended to advise Government and the Planning and Development Authority on appropriate environmental protection measures to be incorporated in a land use policy for West Caicos and subsequent planning decisions, and to assist in further dealings with the Company or other developers.
10. In terms of its national development strategy Government's primary objective is to achieve a significant and sustained rate of economic development in which all the residents of Turks and Caicos participate and from which all of them benefit. Parallel objectives are to minimise negative impacts on the small indigenous society and damage to the fragile ecosystems of the islands. Aragonite mining is seen as a potential major economic activity, offering employment opportunities and considerable national revenue.
11. Aragonite is a species of calcium carbonate used in the making of high quality steel, cement, glass, tiles and gypsum. It is also used as a means of filtering sulphur and sulphurine gases from waste at power stations using solid fuels. It is believed to exist in considerable quantities throughout much of the Caicos Banks, the total area of which is over 7000 km². It is believed that aragonite mined from Turks and Caicos Islands will be exported to the United States and possibly also Latin America and the Middle East.
12. The Caicos Banks surround the Caicos group of islands comprising the uninhabited islands of East and West Caicos, South Caicos (with a population of 1,384 in 1980) Middle Caicos (394), North Caicos (1236), Providenciales (980) and several cays. The Caicos Islands are separated from the Turks group by a deep-water channel, the Turks Islands Passage, approximately 35 kilometres wide and over 2,000 metres deep. The 1980 population of the Turks group was 3443 and of the whole country 7,428.
13. Up to about 1980 the economy was relatively stagnant following the closure of the salt industry in the mid-60s. Since 1980 the economic conditions have improved considerably with increasing employment opportunities in the financial services, construction and tourism industries.
14. Aragonite has been mined in the Bahamas at Tongue of the Ocean (Bimini) for approximately 15 years. Wapora Inc. (see page 3) were environmental consultants in relation to that project. It is believed that aragonite mining also takes place in Spain.
PROPOSAL IN BRIEF
15. The proposal is to dredge aragonite from the sea bed within a 7 km² area just off the north coast of West Caicos. The dredged materials will be pumped to a stockpile area on the north-west corner of the island. This area will drain into an old salina and thereafter overflow to the sea. A deep water pier will be built off the west coast just south of the stockpile area and a conveyor system will carry the aragonite to ships. Ancillary development will include housing, offices, canteen, clinic, power station and fuel store, maintenance workshop, water supply and sewage disposal areas and various community facilities. Possible future development include associated Industrial activities, such as pre-stressed concrete components, gypsum and tile manufacture, fuel bunkering and the development of new mining areas. Initial employment for 200 is anticipated. Estimated total capital investment is $35-40 million. A location plan (APPENDIX D.)* and a sketch plan showing the mining area and proposed on-shore facilities (APPENDIX E.)* is attached.
*Not reproduced here
16. Projected exports during the early years of the mining operation are 5 m tons pa. Exports are expected to be shipped in large bulk carriers.
17. The island covers an area of 23 km² and is uninhabited. Sisal plantations and Salt production existed at one time and the remains of roads, some of them recently improved at the time an oil terminal development was under consideration, a narrow-gauge railway line, which ran across the island with sections on causeways crossing Lake Catherine and a salina, and a small settlement called Yankee Town are all readily apparent. A "North Station", a "Bungalow Station" a jetty site, and a "North Canal" are further evidence of previous activities. A rudimentary air strip exists but has no official status.
18. Lake Catherine is a particular feature of the island, being a large inland salt water lake and a valuable wading-bird habitat.
19. The coastline is also noteworthy. 1975 proposals for reserves, parks and sanctuaries recommended a West Caicos Marine Park comprising the submarine caves along the west coast. A 1971 report on the ecology of TCI commented in respect of West Caicos that:
"Of particular value is the northerly beach and the adjacent patch reefs. We believe that it should achieve reserve status as a potential recreation area, perhaps later to be designated as a park. This island is bound to increase in value on a national scale as time goes on".
20. Government has an existing agreement with Caicos Petroleum Services Ltd. providing for ship-to-ship transfer of oil in deep water to the west of West Caicos within the territorial water of Turks and Caicos Islands. Due to economic factors during the past 2 or 3 years the volume of oil transferred has been less than originally anticipated. The original agreement provided for Caicos Petroleum Services Ltd. to furnish an economic feasibility study on the construction of an oil refinery on West Caicos. Such a study was submitted but not accepted by Government as having been satisfactorily conducted. The original agreement was terminated in early 1982 and a new agreement then entered into. Recent discussions with Caicos Petroleum Services Ltd. indicate that they considered an on-shore bunkering facility on West Caicos may be an economic proposition and wish to pursue such a proposal. This would be in addition to the ship-to-ship oil transfer arrangements.
DETAILS OF STUDY
21. The study should pay particular attention to the following specific issues:
i) the perceived deficiencies in the Wapora report, including:a. a study of wave situation;
b. alternative patterns of dredging and their likely effects on shoreline movement;
c. the recommendations for monitoring of operational activities.
ii) environmental considerations in relation to the terrestrial development for:a. the immediate and future requirement of the aragonite mining operation;
b. any possible associated activities;
c. the further development of West Caicos.
iii) a general appraisal of the ecology of West Caicos and surrounding water, the effect thereon of the envisaged developments, guidelines for mitigation of damage and recommendations in respect of the ecological aspects of a development strategy.
iv) any possible environmental conflicts between the ship-to-ship oil transfer operation and aragonite mining.
v) future environment management and monitoring needs.
vi) the implication of mining new areas and the recommended course of action to determine the environmental impact of such activities.
22. For these purposes the services of a Hydrologist, a Marine Scientist and a Land Ecologist are requested. The team will be required to visit Grand Turk for discussion with representatives of the Company and government officials. The Company has agreed to cooperate with the study to the fullest extent. Thereafter the team should visit West Caicos and any other areas deemed necessary. The team will then return to Grand Turk for further discussions and to present its preliminary findings and recommendations. Government will make available to the team all non-confidential documentation on the project. This will include the Wapora Environmental Impact Report and a Reconnaissance Report on Aragonite Prospecting and Mining. The team will report its findings and recommendations to Government, in a preliminary form as above, and as soon as possible thereafter submit a full and final written report.
23. Government will provide office accommodation, secretarial services and local travel. Co-ordination and liaison will be provided by the Department of Planning.
24. The study is required to be undertaken as soon as possible. The company is actively proceeding with the Planning and design phase of the project in accordance with its agreement with government and work may be expected to commence within a matter of a few months.
25. It is envisaged that the full team should spend at least three weeks in the TCI with, after briefing and initial discussion, one to two weeks in the field, visiting Providenciales and West Caicos, carrying out site investigations and conducting further discussion with various interested parties, and one week for round-up discussions and the preparation of and presentation of preliminary findings and recommendations.
The Environmental Study shall deal with and contain:-
(a) generally, and without prejudice to the particularity of subsequent paragraphs of this subclause, the anticipated environmental impact of Continental proposed mining operations;
(b) the anticipated effect of the said mining operations:-i) on the ecology of the Caicos Bank and Caicos Islands;
ii) on fish stocks (both scale fish, crustacea and molluscs);
iii) on coastal scour;
iv) on reefs and coral growth;
v) on coastal erosion;
vi) on birds; and
vii) on coastal plant life;
viii) tidal surge, hurricane surge and consequent possible inundation of any land in the Caicos Islands;
(c) any appropriate recommendations to minimise or avoid any deleterious impact with reference to any matter referred to in the proceeding paragraphs.