Rift widens between Miners’ Association and GGMC
- calls renewed for removal of Minister Persaud, Joe Singh
Small and medium scale miners are resolute that the disrespect meted out to them by Government must end. They are determined to fight the odds for the industry’s continued growth because it is too big to fail.
These sentiments were expressed at the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association (GGDMA) 29th Annual General Meeting, where calls were made for the removal of Major General (retired) Joe Singh as Chairman of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Board and Robert Persaud, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
The meeting was held on Friday at Regency Suites. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Joustin Mackenzie, Commissioner of Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Karen Livan and other top ranking GGMC Officials, who were part of the gathering, were not allowed to speak.
The rift between policy makers and miners was evident as the woes of the industry were amplified.
To combat these hardships, the Association has adopted a new motto, “One for All…All for One”. This approach has attracted the support of the Guyana Women Miners’ Organization (GWMO).
But, even with a collective voice, the industry needs the technical support of the GGMC and by extension Government’s intervention for its continuity.
According to the President of GGDMA, Patrick Harding, the future of the industry is uncertain owing to the probability of mercury being banned next year. Small and medium scale miners use mercury in gold recovery but this will halt since it will not be supplied next year.
There is a need for an inexpensive alternative method to recover gold from the sluice box, he added. Tests being executed by GGMC to find alternative methods were acknowledged but Harding stressed that they will not be ready for 2013.
However, access to lands is also becoming difficult. He disclosed that GGMC is refusing to accept fees for lands that fall in areas earmarked for Amerindian land extension. It was noted that the Association had filed an injunction in Court to have GGMC reverse this. However, this is not being adhered to by GGMC.
According to GWMO’s President, Simona Broomes, this action by GGMC is grave disrespect to GGDMA and miners. She stressed that the lands “do not belong to Persaud but Guyanese”, as such, miners will not beg for lands to mine.
However, according to Broomes, this is not the only time miners have been disrespected. Broomes, who called for Singh’s removal, said that recommendations put forward by miners to the Special Land Use Committee and submitted to cabinet under Bharrat Jagdeo’s leadership, were not accepted.
The GGMC has also stopped registration for new river claims. According to Harding, mining in the rivers has been done for years. Within recent years miners have invested largely in technology to mine in the river.
He explained that the new technology that is being used to trap gold and diamond does minimal damage to the river. The Association is ready to work with an organization to lessen the impact on the river since miners could mine for 30 years in the river.
Harding related that in 2009, GGMC was restricted from auctioning state lands. He stated that there are illegal mining activities in some of these areas that are being withheld but the relevant agency is not executing its works effectively.
Crime, violence, trafficking in persons and other illegal activities were cited as the other hindrances in the mining industry. Harding assured that the Association had held talks with GGMC to ascertain how illegal shops could be tackled. The Association also met with the Guyana Police Force but that was unfruitful.
According to Harding, the police made it clear that reducing criminal activities in the mining industry would be difficult since there are insufficient ranks available.
Swift actions by the Force and Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee are being demanded by GGDMA. He emphasized that GGDMA is ready to work with the police once they setup more outposts.
Other challenges to the industry are improper roads and infrastructure. He said that monies are being allocated yearly to rehabilitate roads but shoddy works are being delivered by contractors. Harding stressed that it is time roads are constructed to acceptable engineering standards and proper maintenance is done.