Several miners from the Amerindian Village of Chenapau, who were removed, and in some cases arrested, in connection with the alleged illegal mining at the Kaieteur National Park (KNP) believe this was caused by a lack of coordination on the part of the relevant authorities.
Former Toshao of Chenapau, Tony Melville, told Guyana Times on Wednesday that the issue at the KNP could have been avoided, had there been proper coordination between the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) which has responsibility for the KNP.
“There is no coordination, because when the incident occurred up there, when we went about to find out from people if we could get an idea of what’s happening, one time we were referred to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and then the PAC. And when you ask these people about what going on, they give you different answers,” Melville explained. As such, there is some level of ignorance among residents and miners on the exact boundaries that prohibit them from entering certain areas.
According to the miner, there was also a lack of communication in all areas during the exercise which was initiated to have the alleged illegal miners removed. Melville said if there was a better approach to this issue, then the matter would not been blown out of proportion, noting that there was no need to have the area militarised because it was not necessary.
Asked what could be done going forward to address this issue, he suggested that there be open dialogue between all parties concerned. The former Toshao believes with the absence of dialogue, this could just worsen the situation, but if discussions are held, then everyone will have a clear understanding of the issue at hand and how they could all work towards resolving it amicably.
“They need dialogue with the entities and sit with us. We are not people who have antagonism towards each other and create animosity among ourselves. We need dialogue from all levels, so we could understand that these are the rules and guidelines,” she added.
Nevertheless, other miners told Guyana Times that soldiers destroyed their equipment, material and other items in several mining camps. These mining camps were given a cease order since April, but the miners claim they were not given enough time to relocate their equipment.
The miners, who are prohibited from returning to their camps, also expressed pleasure at less military presence in the area, saying that it’s a sign of relief because residents and those working in the industry felt intimidated by their presence and were not too happy with their actions.
A few weeks ago, President David Granger ordered the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Police Force to commence an operation to combat illegal mining in the protected park.
During the operation, 21 residents of Chenapau were arrested while on the ancestral trail; none were caught mining, and they were brought to Georgetown where they were charged. President Granger, as an act of “goodwill” later instructed the charges to be dropped.
The residents vehemently deny mining in the KNP, noting they have a much deeper emotional connection to the Park, since it was their tribe that settled there.