Miners complain of GGMC/Police destruction of camps
…agencies acted to enforce CCJ ruling – Minister
Miners from Chinese Landing, Barama River, Region One (Barima-Waini) are complaining bitterly of Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) officials and Police destroying their mining camps and halting their dredging operations.
This exercise, the miners said, began last week and they are being forced to move out of the worksite.
One miner, John Nunes told Guyana Times on Sunday that the officials have burnt and destroyed several camps and “chased’ miners out of the area saying that they were instructed by a large-scale miner to monitor the plot of land.
“We need help in our village right now. These people come in and stop all our dredging work without any notice or explanation. They are chopping down our tents, it’s a scary situation. We are just trying to earn a dollar to take care of our families,” he said.
The miners called on the GGMC to offer some direction on the issue so that it could be resolved speedily. They are contending that the rights of Amerindians are being trampled on and Amerindian communities are being taken advantage of by these officials and the Administration as a whole.
“These people eye pass the Amerindians. We have no jobs in our communities. This is what we depend on for our livelihood and this is what we have to do to support our families. This is how they are treating us poor Amerindian people,” Nunes said.
Meanwhile, in an invited comment on the issue on Sunday, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said that the area has a mining concession owned by Wayne Vieira and after many years of court battles, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that the GGMC cannot prevent him from mining.
During the time, many miners started mining there, and Vieira and his investors have complained for several months that the area was being “raided” by illegal miners and called for the mining to cease.
Minister Trotman noted that both the GGMC and the Natural Resources Ministry have met with the representatives of Chinese Landing to explain the legal ramifications of the CCJ decision and that they have received a letter threatening contempt of court proceedings if they failed to honour that decision.
Trotman highlighted that the Ministry and the GGMC would work with both the miner and the Chinese Landing Village Council to ensure respect for the law and respect for the rights of the village as per the Amerindian Act prevailed.
A letter to the Minister briefing him on the enforcement exercise stated that “on Tuesday 30th April, 2019 a team of three GGMC officers headed by Snr Mining Engineer Michael Howard, along with three members of the Core of Wardens from Ministry of Natural Resources and four members of the Guyana Police Force, departed Moruca for Tassawini to conduct an enforcement exercise. The aim of the exercise is to remove several illegal miners (who are mainly villagers from Tassawini) and other encumbrances from Wayne Vieira’s mineral properties located within the Tassawini Amerindian Reservation.”
The letter to Minister Trotman stated that the enforcement team arrived at Tassawini on May 1, 2019 and had discussions with the Toshao and Councillors of Tassawini Village on the purpose of the visit and its intended activities. The enforcement activities begun with the dismantling of 11 wooden sluice-boxes and the retrieval of several pieces of tackling associated with the mining operations. There are an estimated 17 mining operations on Vieira’s mineral property V-4/MP/000. The remaining persons had asked for additional time to remove their equipment from the mineral properties. This part of the exercise would continue with the expectation that all equipment would be placed beyond the boundaries of the mining permit.
Vieira would be expected to secure the concession within seven days, which is the duration of the enforcement exercise.
Marudi Mountain issue
A similar exercise was also done at Marudi Mountain, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) on April 30 when a team of officers headed by Engineer Trevor Hurry, along with three other members and four members of the Guyana Police Force, departed for Marudi to conduct an enforcement exercise. This was in response to major deviations from the mediated agreement of 2016, the letter stated.
Back in April 2016, the Government, through Minister Trotman, had intervened in a standoff between small miners from the Marudi Mountain area, representatives of Indigenous communities, and Romanex Guyana Exploration Limited, and had facilitated a historic mediation process with the help of Major General (Rtd) Joseph Singh. The mediation resulted in all parties signing the ‘Mediation of the Marudi Mountain Dispute Agreement’. This agreement paved the way for some 70 small-scale mining operations to be able to continue once the environmental, safety and health issues stipulated were adhered to. In late 2018 and early 2019, a number of small-scale operators had descended on the Mazoa Hill area and started to excavate in a manner considered dangerous to life and limb.
This was followed by the issuance of Orders to Remove from claim or permit area under Regulation 154 to operators who were not listed or authorised to be or operate within the Marudi Mining Licence. Thirty-four operators of “crushers” and four operators of hydraulic excavators were so far issued with orders to remove. The time allowed on the removal orders expired on Sunday.