Mar 24, 2013 News
A United Nations agency is urging Guyana to review the practice of granting mining permits and concessions in indigenous communities before obtaining consent from Amerindians who live there.
The letter was issued this week by the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD), according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday.
It comes after the Amerindian People’s Association wrote the U.N. to complain that although Amerindians received land titles from the government, they have no power to prevent miners from working in or near their villages.
Spokeswoman Jean LaRose said Saturday that the group has repeatedly sought permission from the government to prevent miners from exploiting indigenous people’s lands.
Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has said the government will not consider the group’s request.
In February, Kaieteur News reported that Amerindians from the Upper Mazaruni, Region Seven, have taken their case of land rights violations to the United Nations, hoping that the Special Rapporteurs could help force the government to revise the Amerindian Act.
The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) teamed up with international NGO Forest People’s Programme to write the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation; the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights; United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights Obligations relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment; Special Rapporteur on to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health; and the Special Rapporteur on Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Wastes and Substances.
The NGOs claim that the threats faced by the Akawaio communities of Isseneru and Kako due to mining on their lands are grave, imminent and substantial.
“They are faced with irreparable harm to their social, cultural and environmental integrity if mining is allowed to continue and increase in their lands,” the NGOs had stated.
Late last year, and again in January, the court held that in the case of Isseneru, the Village Council has no jurisdiction over the activities of miners on the basis of when the state granted title to its lands.
“Isseneru’s title is presently almost completely engulfed in mining concessions that, by law, it can do nothing about, and about which it was not consulted and did not consent,” the APA and FPP stated.
In the case of Kako, the judiciary held that its Village Council has no authority to prevent miners entering its titled lands on the basis of the provisions of the 2006 Amerindian Act, nor any right to prevent mining in its traditionally owned lands outside of this titled area.
In April 2006, the UNCERD found that the Amerindian Act discriminates against indigenous peoples in many respects.
The APA and FPP stated that Kako’s traditional lands are also covered by numerous mining. The Amerindians of the Upper Mazaruni wanted the government to amend the Amerindian Act of 2006 in line with its concluding observations of 2006 and in particular, that it ensures that indigenous peoples are able to consent to and control mining on their lands and territories (titled or otherwise), including bodies of water therein, without regard to when title may have been issued and without regard for the date the Amerindian Act of 2006 entered into force.
They also wanted the government to instruct the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) not to issue mining permits or concessions within indigenous lands and territories, titled or otherwise, without first obtaining the consent of the affected community and/or indigenous peoples in accordance with their customs and traditions and through their freely chosen representatives or institutions, and that it amends Section 53 of the Amerindian Act accordingly.
The NGOs also demanded that the government immediately suspends and, where necessary, revoke all mining concessions not consented to by Isseneru and Kako and which affect their traditionally owned lands whether titled in accordance with the Amerindian Act or not.
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