– flays former PNCR Parliamentarian for accusations
Reunion Manganese which is conducting exploration with the hopes of establishing a mine in the Matthews Ridge area has denied that it is forcing persons to move from the area.
The Canadian company issued a statement, days after Mervyn Williams, former Parliamentarian of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), last week said that several residents of the area are worried after being told to move into a soon to be established housing scheme.
Williams said he will be moving to have Parliament examine the deal with the Canadian Company, especially with regards to the rights of the persons, said to be in the hundreds, who live in area.
“I defy Mr. Williams to bring any person who can confirm that someone in authority from Reunion Manganese Inc. told them to move. There is no such plan,” the company’s spokesperson, Major General (rtd) Norman McLean said in the statement.
In the late 60’s, Union Carbide, the company which ran a manganese mining operation in the area, pulled out after low prices affected performance.
Reunion, which signed an agreement and was granted permits to explore in the area, yesterday denied that it had officials who were linked with Union Carbide.
“RMI itself is seeking to explore the ore body and prepare a feasibility study which would validate establishing a mine. Therefore, in the light of that uncertainty, we could not have made statements about a mine and the displacement or relocation of persons etc,” McLean said.
Williams had also expressed concern that government had allocated $50M for the improvements to the road linking Port Kaituma to Matthews Ridge, both Region One areas. Williams argued that the road is one that will be principally used by the company.
“What rubbish? As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), even before we establish a mine, we took it on ourselves to assist the communities within which we operate by improving the main road link as it is part of our logistical line for supplies from Port Kaituma to Matthews Ridge. The Government of Guyana on its own volition, contributed $50 million towards that effort and we recognized Government’s contribution and cooperation by placing signs along the road to that effect.”
The company said it has invested over US$1M ($200M) in six major pieces of equipment – a Caterpillar D6 Bulldozer, two Hyundai 201 Excavators, a 996 Caterpillar Frontend Loader, a Caterpillar 12H Grader and a Case 30 tonne articulated truck – which are now positioned at Port Kaituma, working on that half of the roadway.
“That is being done in cooperation with the Regional Democratic Council. These could have been involved in our own operation. We are an exploration company, not a road maintenance company. What we are doing has some self interest but is serving the community and its people and other road users/miners, traders, foresters, et al,” McLean explained.
He insisted that the first half of the roadway from Matthews Ridge to Falls Top is in excellent condition except for some minor areas.
“The equipment we have allocated to the road effort cost approximately US$1 million or over G$200 million dollars and we have not included labour, fuel, food, etc, so we wish to disabuse anyone’s mind over the significance of the G$50 million contribution made by the Government of Guyana.”
The company also said that should Williams check his facts, it will be found that the company may be less than a 5% user of the road, although it has been conducting the maintenance of that road over the last year.
“There is also a toll outside of Port Kaituma operated by the RDC. They may have the relevant user statistics which would establish who are major users of the road. Again, as we speak, Reunion Manganese Inc. is the major stakeholder in repairing the airstrip at Matthews Ridge which had to be closed by the Civil Aviation Authority, because of the deteriorated state of the airstrip. We sometimes witness as many as eight flights per day. Reunion Manganese Inc. may have two flights every other day – we are not the major user of the airstrip.”
The company also pointed out that there are many foreign, local, large and small companies operating between Port Kaituma and Matthews Ridge, but it “seems that RMI is being targeted by the likes of Mr. Williams” for reasons unknown.
“We have absolutely no difficulty in making our agreement with the Government public. It is not a secret and is a standard agreement which is very transparent and is not different in any way to other investment development agreements. The spin-off benefits to the community and the people of Guyana are very significant and we will disclose the magnitude of our contribution.”
Reunion Manganese said that it hopes other companies could join to help make Matthews Ridge, once a booming hinterland area, a more viable community.
“Mr. Williams should try to look at the positives of rebuilding his community, the donations to the hospital and school, the provision of generators and fuel to power those facilities, improvement in the roads, airstrip and surroundings and other facilities and the economic injections and multipliers as well as job creation.”
The company noted also that it has a positive policy on employment and as a result, “more than 45% of our employees are from the community.”
“This provides significant employment for our people.”
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