Apr 14, 2015 News
The complaints of small miners that they are taken advantage of by some of the big mining companies have been many and have been on-going for quite some time.
However, it isn’t every day that Government responds to these complaints. Saturday was the day for Government to pay keen attention in this regard.
Perhaps it was merely a campaign tactic to win votes, since little or nothing has been done to address the concerns of the small miners, or maybe the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was on a mission to show off its caring side.
At a campaign rally in Bartica, Region Seven, President Donald Ramotar spoke of the need to strengthen the various sectors including the mining sector. It was at this point, he said, that “we will ensure…that small miners have an opportunity to get their lands to do mining and more than that we will review some of the large holdings that many of the ‘big people’ had and (are) not using them.”
The plans to review, he noted, is aimed at ensuring that ordinary people have the opportunity to earn a good living from the mining sector as well. “We have been standing by you all the time,” said the President who, although has been in power since December 2011, has not effectively addressed the small miners woes.
He, however, claims to be ready to address these if his party is elected to power on May 11, 2015.
This publication last November reported extensively on the plight of small miners.
According to small miner Judith David-Blair, the lovely speeches of expansion and development by Government officials, do not necessarily reflect the true reality of what is occurring in the sector.
“Guyanese must know the truth, because as a small miner, for me, the Government and the Ministry of Natural Resources are only focusing on big companies. For us as small miners it is a terrible situation,” said David-Blair as she spoke of a situation in Issano (a section of Region Seven) where people who were living there for decades and making their living, have been uprooted with the arrival of a foreign company.
“Everybody had to move off; shops had to be shut. People’s livelihoods are being taken away. When we visit the backdam (mining area), small miners can’t get a piece of land…I am mining for over a decade and I can’t have a piece of land to say this is my land; that I am working. If I have to work, is on somebody else’s piece of land; nothing for myself.”
But according to David-Blair, working the land is not even the greatest challenge confronting small miners, but rather, it is the quality of land that they are permitted to work.
“Where is the gold in the land? What kind of land are we being given to work with the prices we have to pay?”
She said that one businessman was demanding as much as $3 million up front just to allow people to work on a piece of land. And often the case is, that a mere six ounces of gold is what is uncovered on a monthly basis.
“My big question I’ve been asking all the time was, ‘Are these people paying taxes for all the money that they are collecting from small miners?”
David-Blair is convinced that “we are being raped and ripped off by these landlords; we need land to work where we can survive…we have excavators to pay for…we want to be customers to Macorp, but then if we are not getting lands to work, if we are not getting the gold in the land, how could we buy or pay for an excavator?” the businesswoman asked.
David-Blair is adamant that locals should be given priority over foreigners. Her comments were validated by a number of other business people in Bartica, some of whom compared the locale to five years ago when the said economy was thriving.
“We at Bartica are suffering right now, the economy is not booming. We have a dark cloud hanging over us in Bartica,” said David-Blair
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