BK challenges granting of quarrying licences to Nazar “Shell” Mohamed
− Mohamed says the sector will benefit from “competitiveness”
A decision by the Guyana Geology and Mines (GGMC) to grant four quarrying licences to Hadi’s World – a company owned by Nazar “Shell” Mohamed – is being challenged before the High Court by BK Quarries Incorporated.
Hadi’s World and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the other respondents in the lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday.
In the 500-page Claim, BK Quarries through its lawyer Siand Dhrujon, complained that despite raising several objections, the GGMC and EPA went ahead with the granting of the licences to Hadi’s World.
Among other things, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent Hadi’s World from occupying or taking any steps to develop 16,500 acres of land recently awarded by the GGMC as four quarrying licences. Dhurjon said that BK Quarries applied for a quarrying licence for an area in Itaballi in August 2018 and is still awaiting a response regarding its application.
Hadi’s World, BK Quarries said, only applied for its quarrying licence in December 2020.
The lawsuit explains that the EPA illegally waived the requirement for Hadi’s World to be subjected to performing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of four quarrying operations for the reason that the operations “would not significantly impact the environment”.
“This decision to award a company, which does not own even a single crusher, 16,502 acres of land for quarrying was made although BK Quarries had applied for a quarry licence since August 16, 2018, for a portion of the same area. Further, BK Quarries Inc was issued a prospecting license for the said portion in 2014, a license which remains in force up to today.”
The claim outlines that the Commissioner of GGMC, Newell Dennison, had written to the owner of BK Quarries Brian Tiwarie in December 2019 stating that his application for the quarry licence at Itaballi was being processed. It said that Commissioner Dennison even informed BK Quarries that the area it had applied for was “a considerable expanse of land” and that it would be required to reduce the acreage being sought.
The said acreage was reduced by 50 per cent from — 9364 acres to 4680 acres, Dhurjon said, adding that on January 20, 2021, GGMC informed BK Quarries that all quarry licences extant and otherwise are to be reviewed by the Commission’s Board of Directors.
According to counsel, on February 6, 2021, as published in the Official Gazette, BK Quarries observed that GGMC had published its notice of intention to grant four quarry licences to Hadi’s World of Lot 29 Lombard Street, Georgetown, over the areas which were covered by its [BK Quarries] prospective licences and 2018 quarry licence application.
The company said that it immediately protested GGMC’s decision as unfair, unlawful, and unacceptable, and through its lawyers, sent several letters to the Commission that went unanswered. The lawyer submitted that on February 18, 2021, several of the Commission’s Board members, pointed out that the applications by Hadi’s World, which was still before the Board for consideration, had already been approved unilaterally by Dennison.
Dhurjon contended that it baffles the mind that the EPA would waive the requirement for an EIA for the issuance of four contiguous quarry licences that cover a stunning 16,502 acres. “This is an area that is five times the size of the capital city of Georgetown and almost four times the 4500 acres that were approved for BK Quarries Inc in the same place.”
According to Dhurjon, on June 15, 2021, the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Persaud hosted a ceremony for the signing of these four quarry licences along with related EPA permits which were personally handed over by the Minister to Mohamed.
As such, BK Quarries complained that it did not benefit from equality of treatment under the law by State agencies in breach of the Constitution since the GGMC had “a serious” concern that it “could not actually use and occupy some 9,000 acres for quarrying operations whereas the GGMC has licensed Hadi’s World Inc to use over 16,500 acres for quarrying operations.”
“This is in spite of the fact that Hadi’s World told the government entities that its quarrying operations would only utilize less than 1,000 acres combined across the 4 licenses covering the 16,500 acres of lands given to them for quarrying operations,” the lawyer argued.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Board of the GGMC was biased in favour of Hadi’s World Inc’s applications as a result of a close relationship to a Director of Hadi’s World Inc.
Considering this, Dhurjon is asking the court to grant an order of mandamus to compel the GGMC to take all steps necessary to see to the favourable processing of the 2018 application by BK Quarries for a quarry licence over the area of 9364 acres designated by the GGMC.
Meanwhile, Nazar “Shell” Mohamed in an invited comment on the issue stated that he applied as any normal businessman for the licences and after visiting the locations and reviewing the application, it was eventually granted by the EPA.
“After BK had raised objections, the EPA conducted a public hearing so that people in the area can air their views on the issue… the people had no objection and let me reiterate, this operation will employ locals…GGMC prepared the relevant licenses and all I can say is the process was as clear as day,” Mohamed reiterated.
Further, the businessman confirmed that the same area that was granted for his company to commence its operations, prospective licences were granted to BK International but after some years had elapsed and did start operations, it was returned to the State.
“In fact, he also did not pay the necessary dues for all the years he had it… All I can say to BK is let the industry be as competitive as possible and stop the greediness.”
Hadi’s World Inc as such jumped on the opportunity to produce stones after recognising the need for aggregates and more so, competition in Guyana. Nevertheless, Mohamed reiterated that his application went through all the legal channels and finally on June 14, 2021, the licences were granted.
To date, Mohamed stated, he has already invested a lot of money into the operation which is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2022.