Jan 17, 2016 News
Small scale miners have revealed huge concerns about the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission’s
(GGMC) method of awarding land by lottery, including concerns that while they are being given land that has already been overworked, large scale miners are grabbing up blocks rich in gold.
This concern was raised during the small scale miners’ meeting held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Lilliendaal, on Friday. Hundreds of miners attended and listened as Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, articulated the way forward. And in turn, miners were given the floor to raise their concerns about the industry.
Mining operator Judith David, who once represented the People’s National Congress (PNC) as a parliamentarian, decried the practice of small miners being given land in remote areas and in some instances, land already overworked. She described this as a raw deal.
“We have been given a raw deal by the GGMC and the GGDMA,” she said. “As a small miner we have to get into GGMC’s lottery, pay $5000 for a lottery ticket and then when you pull a lottery ticket, it is nothing.”
She noted that this has been a prevailing occurrence. Miners have little choice but to give back the land to the commission because of its uselessness. She said that it even happened to her. She said that she could not mine and was forced to convert the land to planting.
“My concerns are many. We as small miners have been going through a lot for years. We have felt that no one was listening to us. And it has come to a stage where we have had no alternative but to park our dredges in our yards. As I speak, I haven’t worked for 14 months.”
David also revealed that not only is the land useless within regards to gold deposits, but small miners sometimes have to expend huge sums of money just to ‘cut a trail’ to get access to the land.
“We the small miners need roads to get into the land,” she said. “The appalling thing is we are leasing land from the landlords (GGMC), but then as small miners we have to put the road to get into these lands.”
“If we don’t cut that road, then we cannot access that land. If I am to rent a house, I find light, I find water. I pay my bill. And if I am to pay my bill to a land owner, he must have that land so accessible to work that I can go and work.”
Other miners also raised this concern, including one who emphasized that miners did not want to receive land that had already been had by the “big fishes”. There were even calls for large scale miners to take it upon themselves and to give back large blocks of land possibly being held for speculative purposes but not being mined.
Taking this measure, one miner said, would allow for Government to hold this land along with the other reserves for the benefit of “future generations”.
For his part, Trotman responded well to the concerns raised. He revealed that he has instructed the GGMC board and the Closed Area Committee to release land with known occurrence of minerals to small scale miners in all six mining districts.
Trotman also spoke of a significant amount of land that has been abandoned by medium scale miners, especially in the last year.
“I therefore want to ensure that access to these lands (is facilitated),” he said. “Small scale miners who can have an opportunity to make effective use of the land, and more importantly, that this process be completed within three months.”
He also promised to work towards a transparent and equal distribution process based on the established distribution criteria. With infrastructure being a huge problem, the minister also stated that access roads and bridges are being addressed.
According to the minister, crucial mineral data which is needed by miners to identify where the gold is to be mined, will also be made available to the small scale miner, as well as technical support to recover minerals.
This has been a prevailing concern for miners over the years. Allegations have been raised against the GGMC, for keeping back prime, gold rich land for friends while miners have gotten the “raw deal”. Back in 2015, allegations of shady land deals had surfaced against former GGMC Chairman, Clinton Williams.
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