Canadian mining co says court ruling should be upheld
Chinese Landing mining land dispute
The Canadian gold mining firm which is expected to commence operations at the Chinese Landing at Tassawini, Region One, is maintaining that the land in question is not Amerindian traditional land, and that Wayne Vieira is the lawful owner thereof, in keeping with the decision made by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
In 2011, the High Court ruled that the land in question does not belong to the Chinese Landing community, and that decision was upheld by the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2017.
The Canadian company, after obtaining permission from Vieira, has begun works to start a medium scale mining operation which is expected to employ mainly locals. The company has said it would be investing heavily, and will pay royalties to the Guyana Government.
The company said that, during the court proceedings, the Chinese Landing community was given several opportunities to present evidence of its title, but did not.
An official of the Canadian company (name withheld), in an exclusive interview with Guyana Times on Saturday, related, “The land held by Vieira is not — and I repeat: not — Amerindian land. This has been decided and clarified by both the High Court of Guyana and the CCJ. The Chinese Landing Community keeps saying this is Amerindian land. It is not, as per the law. Title must be granted to the local community, and it was not ever granted.
“They could not produce any title, and for them to say they were not aware of the proceedings is not true at all,” the official explained.
The official, who fears being victimised, said a team of officials from the company visited the area recently, and were threatened by residents of Chinese Landing. “They threatened to kill Vieira and anyone who sets foot on the land,” the official stated.
Further, he stated that the community has allowed illegal mining to occur on Vieira’s concessions in a very unsafe manner. “The mining is being conducted with complete disregard for the environment. Fuel is being stored unsafely, and tailings are being disposed of in the river, which is totally unsafe, killing out fishes. Mercury is being used in the traditional or normal fashion; that is, in the final clean-up (with the exception, it seems, of the milling units). No retorts were noted, but a couple of open-air gold burning hearths were noted. The use of gloves for mercury handling was also absent, as was any concentrating being done in a restricted area or receptacles,” the official added.
The community, according to the official, has allowed buildings constructed on Vieira’s lawful concession to be destroyed, and this will cost the company millions of dollars to replace and clean up before it can commence operations.
The company currently has security presence at the mines, after the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission dismantled camps and removed illegal miners from the area on May 1, 2019.
The Minister of Natural Resources has since stated that the enforcement exercise was lawful and was conducted to uphold the CCJ’s ruling from 2017, which states that Wayne Vieira is the lawful owner of the land.
The company further said the community started claiming the land only after its residents realised that there was gold there. Residents started to mine on the land, and encouraged miners from other villages to mine on the land as well. The miners pay tribute to the community.
The company explained that those illegal miners have a total of seven excavators on the land, and have removed an estimated 15,000 ounces of gold from Vieira’s concession.
“This is theft to the tune of approximately US$19 million, and not one (dollar of) royalty has been paid to the Republic of Guyana. The approximate theft from the people and the state is $1.5 million US dollars. If they stole this (sum) from a Bank, they would be in jail for a very long time,” the official said.
According to the company, an influx of miners with land dredges, excavators, and crushers, accompanied by/or alongside shops, has resulted in the Tassawini property being raided and its exploration facilities and infrastructure being destroyed. The “illegal” miners are from Chinese Landing, Charity, Moruca, and Port Kaituma.
On Friday last, the Chinese Landing Village Council hosted a press conference in which it made claims for the said land. Its contention is that the Village Council had not been included in the court proceedings for the said land, and had not been given opportunity to present its title. Members of this Village Council have since met with Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams, who assured them that she would work with the Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Sydney Allicock, and Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman to resolve the issue.