Despite govt. visit…
– opposition parties not welcomed
By Leonard Gildarie
Barticians have vowed to continue their plans to shut that community down tomorrow, over a number of mining proposals being studied, despite a visit there yesterday by a high-level delegation of government officials.
Yesterday also, miners criticised opposition parties for not raising its voice in protests on critical mining issues and warned them that they will not be welcomed to use the occasion for politics since Bartica stands ready to fight its own battles.
At a meeting that was stormy at times, miners and residents alike were assured that there will be no stopping to the gold and diamond mining in the country. Miners also called for Government to set aside up to 10 per cent of state forests, where there are minerals located, for the industry.
Accompanying Minister Robert Persaud were Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, Head of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), William Woolford, Head of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), James Singh, and Odinga Lumumba, member of GGMC.
Minister Persaud told the packed gathering that the Industry was too crucial to Guyana for any contemplation that will ultimately hurt it.
Last year alone, Government granted an estimated $10B in tax breaks and other remissions for the mining industry, a clear indication of the administration’s seriousness about its continued sustainability, Persaud assured the residents.
On Friday, it was announced that the mining community, long considered a gateway to the mining industry of the interior, was gearing to shut down all activities tomorrow and hold a motorcade and rally to protest changes in policies for the mining sector which they said will effectively close them down.
Yesterday, several miners and residents alike, numbering around 200, assembled at St John The Baptist Primary School, wearing yellow as a show of support for the importance of mining in that community.
With gold prices at its highest in years, Minister Persaud warned that a drop in price which is tied to the US dollar will have repercussions if the dollar gains strength.
This is where the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy comes in since it allows for the country to use resources to plug into other key areas even as mining continues in a greater way.
“It has always been made clear that mining will continue. There has never been any discussion whether we should cease or reduce mining activities,” Persaud said.
He emphasised that no decision has yet been made about many of the proposals dealing with mining issues such as the six-month notice period and dispelled rumours that the notice will prohibit small miners from operating.
The outstanding contributions of the mining sector in 2009 were highlighted by Minister Persaud who noted that despite global challenges mining held its reputation as one of the more resilient sectors. The same could not be said for rice, sugar, bauxite and tourism.
“Why would anyone attempt to hurt that? Why would any sensible government or administration want to proceed in a direction to affect a sector that is one of the more resilient sectors?” Minister Persaud queried.
Persaud, who is performing the duties of Prime Minister, acknowledged that lack of information may have fueled the concerns of residents and miners.
Minister Benn assured that mining will not be affected if the right procedures are followed.
“If you have a medium-scale mining permit and you identify where you want to mine, you can go and start mining and continue mining. There is nothing that will stop you from mining. What is required and what is already inherent in the laws is that you have to give notification so that under all the various stakeholders using our forest resources, we are able to ensure that the practices are sustainable,” Minister Benn said.
According to Holbert Knights, Region Seven’s Chairman, the existence of Bartica evolves around mining and residents and businesses alike are concerned about the repercussions of any changes to policies.
Yesterday, spokesperson for a group calling itself the Committee of Concerned Barticians, Frederick McWilfred, was harsh in his criticisms of the handling of the proposals by the Land Use Committee, chaired by Benn, which was established by President Bharrat Jagdeo earlier this year.
He accused the government of unilaterally attempting to implement the six-month notice regulations without consultations. He displayed a copy of a letter from Prime Minister Sam Hinds last year, which ordered GGMC to carry out the implementation.
It was only when the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association raised the matter in a meeting with President Jagdeo during a meeting earlier this year that the six-month issue was referred to the committee headed by Minister Benn.
In addition to this, although the committee has miners’ representatives sitting on it, they were not being given a fair chance in the process.
Further, the utterances of the committee working on the mining proposals and President Jagdeo who reportedly said that if miners were not willing to come on board, the government was prepared to implement, are clear contradictions of the facts.
According to McWilfred, despite the assurances of Government, even if the industry is not shut down from the proposals, there is a strong fear that it will severely restrict the operations of small and medium miners.
The miner said that tomorrow’s action is an act of survival for Barticians.
In a parting shot, the miner warned that many miners are staunch government supporters and while they are not political, the fact is that the lives, businesses and families of the people of Bartica are at stake.
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