Apr 29, 2015 News
There is evidence that months before becoming a naturalized Guyanese, Chu Hongbo, the principal in Bai Shan Lin Forest Development Inc., had a Guyanese holding almost 700,000 hectares of state lands for him.
The forested lands were immediately transferred to Chu and Bai Shan Lin’s control after the Chinese investor received his Guyanese citizenship last year.
The transaction has raised several questions, one of which is why concerns were not triggered by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) that a Guyanese who is not a known logger, could be given control of such a large swath of forest as well as the legality of it being transferred later to Chu.
After Barama Company Limited, a Malaysian operation which has 1.6 million hectares, Bai Shan Lin is the third largest holder of state land that has been allocated for forestry activities.
The company reportedly also has a significant foothold in the Mining sector.
Bai Shan Lin’s activities in logging and mining have been under the microscope for over a year now after indications that the company was responsible for exporting large amounts of logs.
In January, GFC which monitors the forestry sector disclosed that the company only has “legal access” to 627,072 hectares instead of over one million hectares that was being reported. These include 344,849 hectares as State Forest Exploratory Permits (SFEP’s).
Bai Shan Lin also controls 274,053 hectares of Timber Sales Agreement -Joint Venture Agreements and 8,170 hectares of State Forest Permissions.
Government has been on the defensive over Bai Shan Lin which was supposed to put down factories for plywood and other value-added wood products. These are yet to become operational.
Last year, several overhead shots of the Bai Shan Lin operations in especially the Kwakwani, Upper Berbice area, were published by Kaieteur News showing large stocks of logs ready for exports. It drew widespread criticisms over the seeming coziness of Government with the Chinese logging firm.
Earlier this month, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) announced in a statement that Chu has become a naturalized Guyanese and thus was entitled to acquire the properties via the relevant systems under the Mining Act and Regulations.
In fact, 98 of his Mining Permits listed were won via an open competitive bidding process at last year’s auction.
With increased scrutiny over logging in Guyana’s forests especially with a US$250M agreement with Norway which mandates this country to control its deforestation rates, GFC has been under pressure to defend its monitoring as the government’s regulator.
Last year, exported logs earned $24.4M compared to US$12.5M in 2013; sawn lumber US$20.3M compared to US$19.6 in 2013 and roundwood US$4.1 as against US$2.7M in 2013.
According to 2014 log production, values show an increase of 42 percent over the 2013 total for categories that include Wamara and the other lesser utilized species and a mere 11 per cent increase for those species in the prime category -also called Special Category.
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