– demand urgent intervention by authorities
Akawaio Amerindians from the village of the Isseneru in Region Seven are claiming that their rights have been violated and the governance of their village undermined by a defiant miner who is boldly flouting orders by the authorities to cease mining.
The village council did not give the permission for the miner in question to extract gold from an area within their titled and demarcated land. In fact, the head of the village, Dhanessl Larson, has declared that other villagers are being prevented by the miner, who has employed over a dozen workers, from even having access to the land where the mining is taking place.
Larson and other members of his village council travelled to Georgetown yesterday to vent their frustration, saying that despite their repeated efforts, the miner has refused to comply with their request or that of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to shut down his operation.
The village, occupied by an estimated 260 persons, has been facing defiance from the miner since November 16, last year.
According to deputy village captain Claude Bennette, on that day the miner’s representative entered the area and began working within the village’s titled lands.
“These miners entered our Village without our permission and started to work without our consent,” Bennette told reporters at Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown.
The Village Council said it later learnt that the mining operation belonged to one Wayne Heber who is operating under a power of attorney given to him by Mark Anthony Chang who is the attorney for Joan Avahnelle Chang.
Bennette said the Village Council informed the miners that under the Amerindian Act small and medium scale miners must have the consent of the Village Council and Village to carry out mining activities on titled village lands.
With the miners ignoring the Village Council, Bennette said the matter was reported to the GGMC mines officer at Kurupung on November 23 and the mines officer came the next day to investigate the complaint.
Following his investigation, Bennette said the mines officer issued a cease work order dated November 24 on the mining operation.
However, the Council claims the miners, in breach of the cease work order, began working again the very next day after the mines officer left the village.
On November 25, the Toshao and some members of the Village Council travelled to Georgetown, and together with their legal counsel, met with the Commissioner (acting) of the GGMC and the Chief Mines Officer.
As soon as the breach of the cease work order was known, the Village Council informed their legal counsel who wrote to the Commissioner (acting) of the GGMC on November and December 2, informing the GGMC of this breach.
The Village Council claims that they have also sent a written complaint to GGMC, dated December 8.
The Council said that GGMC responded until December 29, when mines officers from Georgetown went to Isseneru to investigate and subsequently issued another cease work order, dated December 30, on the mining operation of Wayne Heber.
Bennette said the mining operation stopped for a few days but then the miners resumed their activities just after New Year’s Day and to date they continue to carry out mining operations with total disregard for the authority of the GGMC and the Village Council.
The Village Leader said that the miners have claimed that they had a licence to mine in the area since 1992, but he said no verification of this could be made.
Mr. Larson, who has been the head of the village since 2009, said that the village was granted its land title in 1997, and was unaware that any mining concession was issued for areas within its boundaries.
Villagers claim they were cheated by the government if indeed it had granted the mining licence but failed to inform them when the title was issued.
Lewis Larson, a former village leader, said that contact was made with the Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai when the problem arose, but she replied that she was busy with elections and did not have time to deal with the matter.
The villagers of Isseneru say that without the permission to govern what happens on their own land, they are left at the mercy of this miner and others who may want to do the same.
“We, the Isseneru Village Council and the residents of Isseneru Village, call on the GGMC and the Government to enforce the laws and regulations of our country to protect our rights as Indigenous people.”
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