The government, while conceding lapses, intends to step up efforts in monitoring and regulating the presence of Brazilian miners in Guyana.
“We are not unmindful that their arrival might not be controlled (and) administered to the best of the abilities of the GGMC (Geology and Mines Commission) and in accordance with the rules and regulations governing immigration, (and) work permits and such like,” Dr Roger Luncheon, the government’s chief spokesperson said this week.
The government is putting the new regulations in place to meet its end of the bargain in an agreement with Norway that calls for sustainable mining as one of the measures to save forests in exchange for US$250 over the next five years. The Norway agreement fits into Guyana’s preparation of a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
Luncheon said the contribution of the Brazilian entrepreneurs, in mining cannot be dismissed lightly.
“I think we have to concede that their arrival led to the application of new technologies in the mining sector and we suspect, contrary to the anecdotal comments made, that it also had an impact on declaration of gold, and in earlier years, on diamond production,” he stated.
Unregulated Brazilians miners have long been a bugbear, but Luncheon said the answer to that is not to decry their presence and initiate a xenophobic reaction to the Brazilians. He said their efforts to integrate in the border locations and in Georgetown are notable.
“We have to spend much more time and provide much more resources in executing those existing arrangements that govern their presence and operations,” Luncheon added.
In the policy statement that flowed from adoption of the LCDS, Luncheon said both the Guyana Forestry Commission and the GGMC have noted the need for more wardens and extra offices to establish a greater regional and in the field presence “to really give effect to what has been undertaken by Guyana in the Norway agreement.”
The Guyana-Norway agreement envisages a strengthened forest monitoring and control system, focusing on all significant drivers of deforestation and degradation, including mining.
At the last meeting of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Guyanese miners expressed concern about the number of illegal Brazilian miners in the interior, particular border locations.
The miners had called for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the GGMC to take steps to address illegal foreigners working in Guyana.
The International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) of Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Programme in a research three years ago found that inadequately controlled mining in Guyana’s interior has caused severe human rights abuses and devastating environmental damage.
The report, “All that Glitters: Gold Mining in Guyana,” documents the failure of Guyanese mining regulations to prevent this harm to formerly pristine rainforest communities where the indigenous Amerindian population resides.
“Medium and small scale gold mining as currently practiced and regulated inflict severe environmental, health, and social damage on the areas and people near mining operations,” said Bonnie Docherty, clinical instructor at the IHRC.
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