Oral arguments into challenge of quarry operations set for Sept 28

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Brian Tiwari

Oral arguments in BK Quarries Incorporated’s challenge to Hadi’s World – a company owned by prominent businessman Nazar “Shell” Mohamed – being granted four quarrying licences, have been set for September 28 before Demerara High Court Judge Gino Persaud.

BK Quarries is contesting a decision by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to grant the quarrying licences to the company, which, in addition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are listed as the respondents in its judicial review application filed in June.

In initial filings, BK Quarries had also named GGMC’s Commissioner Newell Dennison as a respondent.

However, the Commissioner of GGMC applied to be removed as a party to the proceedings.Justice Persaud granted the application on the ground that there was “no cause of action disclosed against him”.

As such, he has been deleted from the proceedings and BK was ordered to pay him $250,000 in costs on or before September 20.

Further, BK Quarries had filed an application for the GGMC to disclose several documents, including documents submitted to it by Hadi’s World in its quarry licence applications.

That application, was, however, denied by Justice Persaud who held that “[BK Quarries] has not demonstrated any exceptional circumstances to justify the disclosures sought”.

According to the Judge, “the application for disclosure seems to be an attempt to obtain as much information as possible to unpick GGMC’s decision and seems to be a fishing expedition”.

“[BK Quarries] has come to court to challenge GGMC and is required to prove its case based on the information in its possession not on what it hopes to acquire through an application for disclosure within a Fixed Date Application,” said the Judge in his ruling. With the dismissal of the application, BK Quarries has to pay an additional $150,000 in costs to GGMC.

In its application for judicial review, BK Quarries through its lawyer Siand Dhurjon, complained that despite raising several objections, the GGMC and EPA went ahead with the granting of the licences to Hadi’s World which has no expertise in the quarrying industry.

Among other things, the company is seeking 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 Iteballi, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) 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.BK Quarries contends 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. BK Quarries Inc. was issued a prospecting licence for the said portion in 2014, a licence which remains in force up to today,” BK Quarries said.

BK Quarries’ legal documents outline that the Commissioner of GGMC had written to its owner, Brian Tiwarie, in December 2019 stating that his application for the quarry licence at Iteballi was being processed. It said it was even informed by GGMC that the area the company 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 his client that all quarry licences extant and otherwise are to be reviewed by the GGMC’s Board of Directors.

According to counsel, on February 6, 2021, as published in the Official Gazette, BK Quarries observed that GGMC had published a 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 the GGMC’s decision as unfair, unlawful, and unacceptable, and through its lawyers, sent several letters to the GGMC that went unanswered. The lawyer submitted that on February 18, 2021, several of GGMC’s Board members pointed out that the applications by Hadi’s World, which were 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, Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat hosted a ceremony for the signing of the 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 utilise less than 1000 acres combined across the four licenses covering the 16,500 acres of lands given to them for quarrying operations,” the lawyer argued.

Dhurjon also alleged that the Board of the GGMC was biased in its decision.

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 2018 application by BK Quarries for a quarry licence over the area of 9364 acres designated by the GGMC.