Chinese Landing calls on Govt to cancel Vieira’s mining licence
The Chinese Landing Village Council has said it was not represented at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) when businessman Wayne Vieira sought approval in obtaining mining blocks which cover a major acreage of its land at Tassawini in Region One, Barima Waini.
The Council and residents of the village, along with toshaos from neighbouring villages, hosted a press conference on Thursday at the Regency Suites, wherein they called on the Government to cancel mining licences that were issued to Wayne Vieira, who is using same to give mining rights to a large-scale mining company, Vangold Mining.
The Council feels this act is a blatant disregard for its rights to the traditional land, and is more so a direct breach of the Amerindian Act, which services to protect the right of the Amerindians.
Speaking at the press briefing, Chinese Landing Toshao Orin Fernandes told the media on Thursday, “We would like the Government to stop issuing mining licences to Wayne Vieira. It is unfair for him to be able to conduct mining on our lands, and we can’t.”
Fernandes explained that the Council had neither representation nor involvement in the court case. He said these matters were raised at the National Toshaos Conference in 2018, and discussions were also held with Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). However, the Council is still to receive any intervention from those entities.
At the NTC in 2018, Minister Trotman was quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, mining cannot take place without permission of the community, and it is the duty of the miner to approach the community for permission, and to settle appropriate terms. So that right remains.” Yet the Government now claims it is removing “illegal miners”, the Council has argued.
The Council has said it received title for those lands in 1976, while Wayne Vieira received mining licence almost 20 years later. Fernandes noted that claims are being made that the Council has no title for the land, which he said is a total mistruth.
“We want the Government to respect the fact that we are traditional owners of these lands and resources, also acknowledge that we have title to show our ownership of the lands; and we call on them to honour our right to free, prior and informed consent before they issue mining concessions on our traditional lands,” Nikita Miller, a councillor from the village, said.
Fernandes has said that should the Government fail to cancel Vieira’s mining permits, Vieira’s investment in large scale mining at Chinese Landing would take those lands completely out of the hands of the village miners, and there will be major negative economic and social impacts on the residents of the village.
“They are clearing us out of our own lands. And Vieira is planning to recommence mining there through a large-scale mining company. He presently has security in the village as we speak,” Fernandes said.
According to Fernandes, a helicopter landed in their village a few weeks ago with officials of the company to which Vieira has leased those lands, and this he believes is in disrespect to the Indigenous peoples of Chinese Landing, since the Amerindian Act stipulates that it is unlawful for mining permits to be issued to individuals without the knowledge of the village.
Sharon Atkinson, Vice Chairman of the Moruca Sub-District, who stood in support of the Chinese Landing Village Council, reiterated calls for the Government to execute proper investigation and halt the issuing of mining permits to Vieira.
“Those in Moruca strongly support the Chinese Landing Village and other Amerindian Villages that are also being negatively affected by this issue,” she said.
Atkinson explained that the Chinese Landing Village Council received title for the land in 1976; and in 1991, it received an absolute grant reaffirming its title recorded in October 1991, but with effect from April 1976.
She said that, in 1995, Wayne Vieira purchased prospecting permits to areas of lands on Chinese Landing title through an auction sale (lottery) held by the GGMC without the knowledge of the village; and between 1998 and 2001, GGMC converted those prospecting permits to mining permits, again without the knowledge of the village, thus violating their right to free, prior and informed consent.
According to Atkinson, in 1998, the village sought an amicable solution to the issue with Vieira via an agreement wherein he committed to paying a percentage to the village. However, by 2004, this agreement came to an end as Vieira did not honour his obligations, and manipulated, coerced and terrorised villagers of Chinese Landing.
The Council has since sought intervention of various Government agencies and ministries to stop Vieira from mining on its lands. In 2010, his works were ceased, and this was challenged by him at the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ) in December 2017 delivered a ruling in favour of Wayne Vieira, who challenged the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC)’s authority to close down his operations for breaching regulations of the Amerindian Act.
Vieira, a gold miner, had challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the High Court which had quashed a Cease Work Order (CWO) issued against him by the GGMC.
It was reported that Vieira had contended that the order was not validly issued nor was it retroactively validated by the Amerindian (Validation Commencement) Act 2010.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), however, determined that the GGMC had no authority to issue a CWO directing Vieira to cease all work under his mining permits because he had no agreement with the Chinese Landing/Tassawini Village Council.
According to the ruling, the CWO was issued on November 26, 2010 under the Mining Regulations because of the absence of an agreement with the Village Council, as was required under the Amerindian law.
However unknown to the Commission, Vieira had made several attempts since 2009 to secure a new agreement with the Village Council.