Jan 19, 2013 News Comments Off on GHRA lambasts judge over ruling on mining on Amerindian lands
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has lambasted Justice Diana Insanally’s ruling that allows gold miner Joan Chang to prospect in the Amerindian village of Isseneru.
In a lengthy statement yesterday, the GHRA described the judge’s decision as ‘shocking’ and said that it has opened “a Pandora’s box” for unscrupulous miners, while adding that nothing in the Amerindian’s Act supports the judge’s decision.
“The decision of Justice Insanally to the effect that miners who obtained mining permits prior to the Amerindian Act of 2006 are not bound by its provisions, is shocking. One can only wonder whether the Judge in question has any idea of the Pandora’s box of mischief she has opened. Unscrupulous miners and mining companies have been handed yet another weapon to undermine Amerindians’ control of their own communities. This judgement flies in the face of justice and decency, to say nothing of common sense,” the GHRA said.
GHRA noted that the court found in favour of the miner, Joan Chang, against the Isseneru Village Council, which had ordered the miner to stop working, supported by a Cease Work Order (CWO) from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
According to the human right body, the decision has profound consequences not only for Isseneru but for all Amerindian communities.
“Reports state that Joan Chang ‘is associated’ with Platinum Mining Incorporated without clarifying the relevance of this association to the case. In addition, the judgement is yet another step in the process of reducing the GGMC to a toothless poodle, rather than the independent watchdog urgently required in the mining industry.
“Nothing in the Amerindian Act supports the basis for the Judge’s decision. Indeed, Section 48 of the Amerindian Act on which Justice Insanally relies states unambiguously that:
“(1) A miner who wishes to carry out mining activities on Village lands or in any river, creek, stream or other source of water within the boundaries of Village lands shall
(a) Obtain any necessary permission and comply with the requirements of the applicable written laws and …
(e) negotiate with the Village Council on behalf of the Village in good faith all relevant issues”…
Section 14 is equally clear that “A Village Council may, in the exercise of its functions, make rules governing….(j) the regulation of the conduct of non-residents when within Village lands.”
“The logic of the Act is that any non-resident engaged in activities on Amerindian lands must conform with any requirements of the Village Council once those rules are themselves in conformity with the Act. Nothing in the reported versions of the court judgement suggests the Council‘s actions were improper, a fact supported by the GGMC championing the Council’s interpretation of its rights.
“The non-application of the Act to miners whose presence pre-dates the Act is absurd. It is precisely the abuses generated by non-residents which provoked the need for Amerindian communities to have greater powers to regulate their behaviour in the first place.
The logic of the judgement is similar to that of reckless drivers who provoked the introduction of speed limits, claiming exemption from observing the new limits on the grounds of their behavior prior to the law, or domestic abusers making the same argument for being allowed to continue abusing.
The judgement will no doubt be welcomed by those in the mining community who view any kind of regulation as an affront to their ‘right to mine’”, GHRA said.
GHRA noted that in 2010, moves to limit the number of mining properties a miner can hold were abandoned by the Prime Minister following industry objections. It said that in 2012 the rule requiring miners to give the Guyana Forestry Commission six months’ notice prior to starting to mine, in order to allow timber concessionaires to remove timber from the area, ”also bit the dust”.
“The move in June 2012 to suspend river mining licenses for twelve months to allow a review of river mining lasted less than a month, following howls of protest from the Guyana Gold & Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA).”
“In September 2012 the President caved into assuring miners that there would be no ban on mercury, nor would river mining be suspended. Taken together these incidents suggest there is a case to be made that having the same Minister responsible for both mining and the environment is a conflict of interest,” GHRA said.
According to the GHRA, the judgement in the Isseneru case comes at a time when a team comprising representatives from the Natural Resources Ministry, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association is attending an international meeting in Geneva in preparation for the global ban on mercury about to be imposed on mining.
It said Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud is reported as “believing that going forward the team could benefit from a multi-stakeholder discussion on the draft document of the instrument”.
“One is left to wonder, first, who would have represented environmental interests on this delegation, since the Ministry is seemingly in the pockets of mining interests; secondly, with respect to the composition of this team, why are gold and diamond miners considered a priority stake-holder to indigenous communities or environmental concerns and, finally, surely, the consultation should have occurred before the meeting rather than after it.”
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