Small miners, Region 9 residents, cry foul

Marudi Mining Agreement

…bash Natural Resources Ministers for lack of action

By Lakhram Bhagirat

Approximately 15 months after signing an agreement with Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd, resolving issues surrounding mining in the Marudi Mountain area, the Rupununi Miners Association of Lethem, Central Rupununi; the Women Miners Organization, and the Amerindian villages of South Rupununi are contending that they have been given the bad end of the bargain.

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Junior Minister Simona Broomes

They contend that Romanex is yet to begin activity in the Marudi Mountain area, and that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is preventing them from engaging in mining activities there.
Moreover, they are also lambasting Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman for ignoring their calls for help.
Minister Trotman had, in April 2016, initiated a mediation process involving the Amerindian villages of Aishalton, Awariwaunau, Karaudanawa, Achiwuib, Shulinab, Maruranau, Shea and Potarinau; the miners, and Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd, following which an agreement outlining solutions to the dispute was signed by the overseas mining company, toshaos of the Amerindian villages, the Rupununi Miners Association, and the Guyana Women Miners Organisation.
One of the agreed terms of this agreement is that the company, on commencement of exploration and mining activities, would accommodate miners seeking to mine in the area, provided that they abide by the rules of the company and the laws of Guyana, including the non-use of mercury in their gold-recovery processes.
Trotman had, in September, formally ordered reactivation of the mining licence of Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd., thus paving the way for that company to undertake exploration and mining activities in the Marudi Mountain area, Rupununi.
However, according to the more-that-300 miners operating in the area, the company, allegedly financially strapped, is yet to undertake mining in the area.
According to miner Robert Murray, at the time this agreement was signed, there were 483 miners and 70 operations active in the Marudi area. After the agreement had been signed, GGMC Mines Officers went into the area and ordered all miners to cease operating.
“At a meeting held in Lethem with the Minister of Natural Resources and miners, Mr. Trotman told (miners) that they would be given some stockpile gravel so that they could put food on their tables for Christmas. That was last year, and this was not done,” he related.
“Mr. Trotman came to Marudi and held a meeting with Romanex and miners. The miners told…their problems and Mr. Trotman said that he would be sending a facilitator to Marudi. The miners asked that the facilitator meet with miners in Georgetown; Mr. Trotman told them, ‘No, let him meet with miners in Marudi’,” Murray added.
He said the miners were invited to Aishalton, and then Lethem, for a meeting with the facilitator; but they could get no satisfaction. He added that miners are yet to commence work in the Marudi area.“We have some miners we call ‘Baymen,’ (they are) from the 483 miners, and Romanex is saying that they have no place for them in Marudi. These are the same miners who started work in Marudi since in the 1940s, and about 98% of these Baymen are Amerindians living in Region 9. Mr. Trotman and GGMC told the shops in Marudi that they have to remove from where they are and go to another location, and they agreed. GGMC promised to put drinking water and toilets, this was not done, and GGMC is coming with force to break down the said shops,” the man revealed.
“Two workers of Romanex told us that they (have) not (been) paid their salaries for months. Romanex wants to put two gates on the road, preventing miners from coming into Marudi. A company who come into Marudi some years ago did put up two gates, and were told by the Police and the Mines Officers to take them down; which they did.
“Mr. Marshall (facilitator) told the last facilitation meeting that he does not want any miners in Marudi,” the man further stated.
The miners explained that they would have made several complaints to the Natural Resources Ministry and Minister Trotman, but definitive action is yet to be taken by either the Ministry or the Minister.
Region 9 residents have, since July of 2016, been complaining that the signed agreement is being breached. They have raised their concerns with Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes, during one of her outreaches to the South Rupununi. Having met with 200 residents of the community, Minister Broomes had said she had been informed that the situation had worsened since the agreement had been signed with Romanex to resolve the issues.
“The Amerindians are complaining that they are not benefiting anything from Marudi (mining operations),” Minister Broomes had said.
The residents have also indicated that aside from the agreement being breached, illicit activities such as trafficking in persons and the proliferation of narcotic drugs have increased in intensity. Government is allegedly yet to take any corrective step to remedy the situation.
The residents say they are being forced to close down their shops and other businesses, since there are little business opportunities available to them.
Just last month, Canada-headquartered gold mining company Guyana Goldstrike Inc. reported success with local partners at Marudi, Region 9. According to the company, some 910 ounces of gold have been mined and recovered by local small-scale alluvial miners on the Marudi Gold Project, an area that is about 230 kilometres from Lethem.
However, the miner Robert Murray has said the only company operating in the Marudi area is Romanex. The Marudi Gold Project is a permitted mining licence consisting of approximately 13,500 hectares.