Police beat protesting Marudi miners as dispute escalates
Police resorted to the use of force, yesterday, to clear a trail leading to the Marudi mining district in Region Nine as local miners continued to defy orders to vacate a mining area.
Using whips and sticks, police ranks inflicted blows on a woman and her sons who lay in the middle of the trail in protest, blocking a team of armed police ranks and officials from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission from accessing the main mining area.
The woman is part of a group of miners who are protesting what they are calling their unlawful removal from a mining claim that is registered to a Canadian mining concern, Romanex Guyana Explorations Limited.
About 300 local miners have been operating about 22 dredges in the area for the past 10 years when the Canadian firm appeared to have neglected it.
Reports out of the area stated that a police unit arrived at Lethem from the city last Thursday to accompany a local representative of the Canadian company along with GGMC officials to enforce the removal of the local miners.
Word of their arrival reached the ears of the miners at Marudi and they braced themselves to resist any attempt to remove them.
Yesterday when the police along with the officials were traveling to the main mining district, they were met by protestors who stood their ground preventing them from proceeding.
Verona Prince, whose husband is one of the miners, then sat in the trail along with her 11-year old son in protest to the intended actions of the police and other mining officials.
A police rank who appeared to be the team leader then proceeded to beat them with a piece of wood to get them to remove, although the woman explained that she was being a peaceful protestor.
When the policeman continued his beating, the woman’s 22-year old son jumped in to protect his mother and he too was greeted with some blows that included several cuffs and kicks.
The beating was so severe that the woman and her two sons had to be treated at the Aishalton Hospital for injuries.
The police eventually escorted the team to the mining district where they warned miners to pack up and leave.
However, the miners remain adamant that they are awaiting word from President Donald Ramotar who had met with them on February 9 last and had promised to look into the matter with a view to settling it amicably.
Miners of that Region Nine area have been locked in a battle with Romanex for a number of years now, with the matter even engaging the attention of the court.
However, most of the miners have admitted that they have been operating illegally on some of the lands under the Romanex licence.
According to one spokesman for operators in the area, Sugreem Singh, of the Rupununi Miners’ Association, President Donald Ramotar met with miners about two weeks ago to discuss the Marudi Mountain issue.
“Yes, the persons are raiding. Some of them have been living in Marudi for 20 to 30 years. We have been asking for land. Romanex has lands and since the ‘90s has been doing nothing with them. We are asking for lands and help. There were supposed to, under the exploration licence, give up sections of the land back to the state regularly. This has not been done.”
Already, a petition with more than 200 names affixed has been sent to the government over the Romanex situation.
Both the local representative of Romanex and the senior GGMC official who were in the area yesterday declined to speak to a correspondent from this newspaper who had traveled to the contentious district to observe what was taking place.
Only last week the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment issued a statement indicating that it was reviewing the licence of Romanex Guyana Explorations Limited, after investigations revealed that the company failed to carry out exploratory works in keeping with its requirements.
According to a release from the Ministry, Romanex was granted a licence to mine at Marudi Mountains, Region Nine, since April 17, 2009.
A site visit by officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), an arm of the Ministry, found no activity.
“A site visit revealed no mining or exploration on behalf of the company was ongoing, while the company had earlier committed to carrying out exploration activities within the early part of 2013. However, it is evident that no work is expected to commence on the property in the near future as no mining plan has been submitted.”
GGMC said that an investigation of illegal mining in the Marudi area was as a result of the recent Operation El Dorado.
The Marudi Mountain Mining Licence was granted to Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd. on April 17, 2009, after the company had held a Prospecting Licence (large scale) from 1990 to 2009 over 55 square kilometres.