Ministry threatens to prosecute miners in Potaro buffer zone

The Natural Resources Ministry has come down in condemnation of mining in what is supposed to be a buffer zone in the Potaro River in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), warning that persons involved in these activities will be prosecuted.
According to the Ministry on Monday, it has come to their attention that there are mining operators in the area who do not have permission to be there and are causing the degradation of the river banks.
It was further explained that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) conducted an investigation. While the Ministry did not name the mining operator, this publication understands that it is a well-known figure in the gold mining industry.
The Ministry further informed that these acts constitute a breach of the Mining Act Chapter 65:01 and that the operators were issued with cease and removal orders. The Ministry, therefore, threatened them with prosecution.
The Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat, a statement from the Ministry said on Monday, has envisioned a renewed strategic approach for the extractive sector, one which ensures proper regulation of mining coupled with high environmental standards.
Subsequently, he has mandated intense monitoring and compliance within the sector to ensure sustainable legal extractive activities, the statement said, noting that the Ministry recommits itself to upholding its mission statement of developing, implementing and overseeing policies for the responsible exploration, development and utilisation of the country’s natural resources.
Buffer zones are designated areas where no mining activity is allowed. Micobie is one such community in Region Eight with a buffer zone, which allows for the environmental impacts of mining on the environment and infrastructure to be reduced.
However, there have been long-standing issues with miners carrying out their activities in buffer zones. Back in 2016, GGMC had rescinded all permissions to mine in buffer zones, without specific authorisation from the agency.
“Please be advised that mining of river banks (buffer zones) is against the law,” the order had stated. “Any breach of river banks for access to claims or mining permits, or for prospecting, mining and quarrying operations require specific permission from GGMC,” the GGMC had said in a notice.
Recently, the Government has been clamping down on illegal extraction of natural resources, conducting operations that have resulted in the destruction of illegal mines and illegal logs being seized.
There was even a joint operation conducted by the army, police and GGMC, which unearthed a massive tunnel mining operation in the New River Basin some 50 miles east of Masakenari, South Rupununi.
Investigators believe that the persons who were conducting the mining operations may have been utilising an illegal airstrip in Brazil, located some two miles south of the Guyana-Brazil border. The New River Basin is designated a Rare Earth Mineral Reserve and as such, mining is strictly prohibited in the area.