Quarry operators win planning fight to block competition

| 09/09/2018 | 35 Comments
Cayman News Service

Photo courtesy Water Authority

(CNS): A planning application for a new quarry close to the protected conservation area of Meagre Bay Pond has been rejected by the Central Planning Authority, although the most vociferous objections were not from environmental campaigners but established quarry operations in the same location. The crux of the argument made by the existing quarry operators, which included Scotts Equipment, Midland Acres and PAB Heavy Equipment Ltd, was that a new quarry would contravene the CPA’s own Aggregate Policy, which aims to balance the environmental impact of quarrying with the need for sufficient supply of high quality construction materials at a reasonable price for future development in Cayman.

However, representatives of Maurice Bloom, the UK investor behind the proposed 50ft deep, 35.5 acre quarry, told the CPA that these objections were based purely on their own commercial concerns in order to protect what was described as a lucrative business with limited supply, which could potentially lead to a monopoly situation.

Throughout the hearing the established quarry operators made reference to the CPA’s Aggregate Policy, approved by Cabinet in 2004, which states that no new quarries may be approved by planning authorities unless the combined reserves of all licensed quarries is below 5 million cubic yards, which is seen as enough supply for five years.

With the current reserve level of aggregate well over 30 million cubic yards, as quarries have gone deeper and expanded over the years, the current operators said there was no way the CPA could approve this application. According to the CPA analysis, Midland Acres and PAB Heavy Equipment have over 25 million cubic yards of reserves between them. One owner said she had not even bothered to file an official objection because it was felt the application would never even get as far as a planning hearing.

Land surveyor Eric Cronier, who represented the new application, stated that there had been huge demand for aggregate rock since 2004. Cayman has experienced a boom in development since that time, beginning with the post-Ivan rebuild and continuing as investment poured into Cayman in line with US economic progress. The scale of the demand is also reflected in the rise of aggregate reserves in Cayman from 3.2 million in 2004 to 32.4 million today.

Cronier also said that in their positive discussions with the Aggregate Advisory Committee (AAC), which includes officials from the planning department, the Department of Environment and the Water Authority, it was stated that the aggregate reserve level is something the AAC feels should be reexamined and this was shared in a letter to the CPA at the time of the first application in May.

This intent to review the required levels of reserves, however, was not enough for the CPA to do anything other than follow their own policy, even though the applicant stated that their quarry would produce only 2 million cubic yards per year, compared to the total reserve of 32.4 million, so could not be a threat to the established operators, especially as its costs were higher.

It was also claimed by the proposed developer that the potential for a monopoly situation existed because if, for example, two quarry operators held the reserve limit of 5 million between them and one was to suffer the loss of an important piece of equipment, then that could leave just one supplier, able to dictate price. The incumbents countered and said such a situation had never occurred over many years and if it did they would work collaboratively.

In a further bid to illustrate how the established quarry owners were highly incentivised to keep new entrants out of the market, one supporter of the new project noted the online posting of a realtor sale notice for Midland Acres Quarry, which offers investors the opportunity “to become a major player in Cayman’s lucrative aggregate and quarrying market”, where “investment is protected by limited current and future availability of licences and suitable quarry sites”.

Meagre Bay Pond in Pease Bay has hosted four licensed quarries for a number of years which are not considered by the AAC to have a significant environment impact on the National Conservation Law protected area, home to a significant portion of Cayman’s wild bird population, providing appropriate safeguards are implemented.

Following the decision to prevent the opening of a new quarry, Jody Jervis, Sales Manager at Scotts Equipment told CNS, “I would like to thank the board for their decision, which was based on numerous aspects, but the biggest being Section 4 of the Aggregate Policy. We were able to rely on what was stated in the Aggregate Policy and we are very pleased with the outcome.”

Correction: Scotts Industries was erroneously included on the list of quarry operators in the original version of this article. CNS has been informed that Scotts Industries does not own or operate a quarry. The name of the quarry owner is now correctly named as Scotts Equipment.

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Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a sensationalist story to say the least. Using buzz words like monopoly to stir emotion. Fact is, there are over 10 licensed quarries in Grand Cayman so there is no monopoly. This is a case of the news media being manipulated by individuals wanting to run caymaninan owned businesses out of business.

    CNS: I’m inserting my note here because the rest of this comment is simply your opinion on the application, which you are perfectly entitled to. However, this first paragraph is just utter nonsense. It was the job of the journalist who covered this to give readers a summary of what happened, which included the arguments made by both parties and the findings of the CPA. The monopoly argument was put forward by the applicant. What you are suggesting is that the writer of the article should have left this out, i.e. slanting the story to favour the objectors or telling the story how you would like to see it, instead of objectively presenting a synopsis of what happened. He certainly wasn’t manipulated by anyone and this article is not in the least sensationalist.

    Most wealthy individuals who are granted the privilage of permanent residence here, will invest in things such as property and development. Investments out of reach of most locals. However, they hire local labour and local companies to provide services, thus creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits themselves and the local economy.

    But every so often, we get a person of great financial means who comes here to allegedly retire but who wants to be a big fish in a small pond. So, the utilize their wealth to run small businesses out of business, be it local seafood importers, or quarry operators, or who ever they decide to target. They bully the small operators out simply because they have the financial means to do so, even if they operate at a loss for a while in order to accomplish running others out. This then gives them almost a monopoly.

    A bully will always be a bully. When things don’t go their way, they try to pretend that they are the victim.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS the title of your article contradicts your comment.
      There was no “fight to stop competition”. The fight was for the existing policy to be enforced equally and consistently.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It would be very enlightening for the media to research and publish the details of the quarries, and owners, currently permitted by the Aggregate Advisory Committee (AAC), to continue to excavate below 14 feet from MSL, or within fresh water lenses, or otherwise contrary to recommended stewardship guidelines as grandfathered under the Development and Planning Regulations (2017).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Protectionism in all things is the national policy, why should this be different.

  4. Neville Scott says:

    Dear CNS: Scotts Industries does not own a quarry. Stop shit stirring and spreading lies to promote your website. Fact check and correct your article or face a libel lawsuit.

    CNS: Dear Mr Scott, This article was written by one of our freelance writers who made a genuine mistake, although in fact he listed quarry “operators”, not “owners”. It makes absolutely no difference to the article to include Scott Industries on the list of quarry operators and have no idea why you would think we would do so for some nefarious reason.

    I find it hard to believe that you could make a libel case out of the fact that your company was mistakenly identified as a quarry owner/operator. However, for the record, no one at CNS or the writer of this article bears Scotts Industries any ill will, and a correction has been added.

    A further correction will be added in the morning concerning Scott Industries when we have sorted out the company’s role in the objection.

    • Neville Scott says:

      For the record, Scotts Industries does not operate a quarry either. As frustrating as it is to see our company name cited erroneously, I accept that it was a mistake. Your “freelance writer”, actually got it right later in the same article. I also accept that you do not personally wish us any “ill will”. However, as an editor, I’m sure you are aware of the power of your proverbial pen, and its ability to influence your readers’ opinions. I would respectfully suggest that it is your responsibility to check your text/facts prior to publishing, to ensure that you do not inadvertently cause anyone else to wish us “ill will” either. Thanks.

      CNS: We take every care possible to get our facts right. However, even huge media companies with teams of editors and fact checkers occasionally publish errors. The correct company, Scotts Equipment, is now listed as the quarry operator.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article – clear and concise. Its conclusions are however troubling. If you are right, then current Government policy has in effect created a monopoly in favour of existing quarry owners, in perpetuity, as long as they can lay their hands on a bare minimum of aggregate. This sounds more like a banana republic than a mature rules- based economy, and I can’t see how this will help persuade serious overseas players to continue to invest in Cayman.

    Anonymous Europe

  6. Anonymous says:

    The main issue is what is the role of government. Is it to protect the rights of the consumers or protect oligopolies?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Interests, interests, Cartels, the Lodge and more interests…About time the UK commissioned an inquiry here into Cartels, price fixing, and the involvement of the Lodge.

  8. Swampy says:

    Quarry Operators?

    Of course …. do you think they would have responded so quickly to an average homeowner in the Bodden Town and Midland Acres area?

    Nope! Only the money folk gets the real attention around here, it seems.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like they’re restricting production to keep prices artificially high. CPA has done a favor for these ol’ boys, keeping a newcomer out.

    It’s disgusting when you think about it, wouldn’t you say? Flagrant protectionism – having a competitive and open economy won’t happen in Cayman.

  10. Say it like it is says:

    The Cayman Protection Board is back in busness. What if the applicant had been a prominent Caymanian?.

  11. Anonymous says:

    When will the Cayman lsands appoint someone with any imagination in the DoE? There is so much potential here both ecologically and development wise.

    Only here does usless pond scum ranks higher than human delvelopment. There is no need for those two things to be odds with a little bit of imagination. There is no reason these quarries can’t become beautiful parks full of new marine and wild life. There is NO reason this dock shouldn’t be a marine development and habitat unless we are planning to dump raw sewage at the dock! Marine life absolutely loved human structure. What it doesn’t like is a leaky dumps and contaminents and trashy humans..

    Its laughable to see all the hysterics around basic development. The solutions are really not that difficult. Name the zones and parks and write them into law. Like barkers, the eastern swap areas, patches of 7MB and SS etc. etc.. then develop around it. This notion that juman development must be ecolgically damaging is just pure leftist hysterics and vehicle for continual obstruction.

  12. Catcha Fire says:

    Well Mista Bloom all those efforts and buying out of those wuttless Caymanians has brought you nothing and should unfortunately be a warning to many others coming here to buy up everything, but alas the CPA merely acts in its very own interest at most times and not in the interest of Cayman nor the environment! But Kudos to them this time many like you need to be put in there place in these islands, Lets hope and pray they keep making good decisions from here on in. Its about time!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Read quarries, read supermarkets, read home decor centres. Anyone notice a monopoly there, or at least cartel price fixing.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      UK investor? So who is the Cayman partner? Maybe there is a LCCL licence.

    • Anonymous says:

      CIREBA the same.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who is the gentleman that has the monopoly on importation of seafoods from Honduras? Now Caymanians can’t import any? Why?. Why? Let him stay out of the quarry business.

    • SSM345 says:

      Cost of Living is controlled by a select crew who act like Mafia’s in Cayman and our Govt. could not care less, call it extortion, price gouging or whatever else you want, they do not give a monkeys because of the duties they receive.

      If they actually reigned them in we all might be able to survive, save and prosper but that would involve pissing off their buddies so instead lets just f**k everyone instead and carry on.

  14. Anonymous says:

    It would be interesting to know if they have to pay the government some sort of royalties or fee for extracting material out of the ground can cns confirm this. Also what gov department is in charge of overseeing this and have those funds been collected over the years.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know all the details one thing I do know when I got my property filled in 2012-2013 I was paying $14 per yard for base rock fill I recommended my coworker to the same quarry a couple months ago I used back then he told me he was quoted $18 per yard without transportation costs factored in which is an additional few dollars per yard. That’s a big jump in a little space of time I can’t help but wonder what’s the pricing going be like a in few years this is something that should never be allowed to be monopolized.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Excellent news!

  17. Anonymous says:

    A curious and possibly dangerous precedent to free enterprise when competitors can successfully block a new applicant. This could occur in any business sector. Careful!

    • Natty Dread di pan de Environment says:

      You wuking fa deh new applicant or wha 4:51am exactly how many holes unnah plan to dig in the mangrove swamp enough is enough destroying our friggin environment and for wha so some coming here who claim to be retired assets can rape these islands now too! go weh!!! more fiya pan u. “Careful” we sick and tiired of unnah coming here with unnah threats to leave everytime things do not go your way please feel free at anytime to carry out your threats to leave ya hear ras like you!

  18. Anonymous says:

    protectionism in cayman….so what’s new?
    ppm stopped uber from coming here to protect local taxi scam artists that have been ripping off tourists and locals for decades.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh my, how will this effect ‘beloved’ Dart?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Seems like the right decision since there is obviously no lack of quarries or reserves. Changing the policy should require more than a CPA permit hearing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Greed. They are all digging bigger and deeper holes into the ground. When will they ever stop? There should be a limit, imagine huge holes 50 ft deep and they will be crying for permission to go deeper.

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