Jul 18, 2016 News
By Jarryl Bryan
While there has been a string of mining pit collapses, questions have been raised about the penalties prescribed in Chapter 65:01 of the Mining Act. Some find the penalties too lenient to be considered a serious deterrent for operators who flout the regulations.
The General Penalty the Act prescribes that an individual found guilty of an offence stated within the act was liable to a fine of $30,000 and imprisonment of one year. In the case of a corporate body, the Act prescribes a fine of $75,000 and imprisonment for one year.
But Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman is putting mining companies on notice that work is ongoing to amend the Mining Act. He concurred with the need to establish more stringent measures.
“It does make provision for fine and penalties, many of which are very low so that it is not a deterrent,” the Minister told Kaieteur News.
“So that is something we are looking at. I actually have a draft which was sent to me about two weeks ago for amendments, which include increased penalties.”
On that note, however, Trotman sounded a warning about the need to ascertain the circumstances that would cause a mining operator to flout the rules and regulations. He said that operators who simply do not know what the regulations are cannot be penalized for their ignorance.
“It’s one thing to tell a man you will fine him a million dollars,” he said. “But what if the man says he never knew? Or if GGMC never thought or educated him?”
“We just can’t go around taking delight in fining people who do wrong things unless we first introduce them to what is right, teach them the right way and then I believe we can go further and institute (penalties).”
Trotman’s statement comes on the heels of a heightened awareness about mining safety. A mining pit collapse occurred as recent as June, when a Russian geologist who was reportedly taking samples from a pit was killed after the walls collapsed.
His employer, Innovative Mining Inc. owned by Parmeshwar Jagmohan, was reportedly cleared of any wrongdoing in investigations conducted by Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
There was also the case of 18 year old Reynold Williams, who was working in a pit at Konawaruk, Mahdia when it collapsed and killed him the month before.
Last year, a mining pit at Mowasi, Potaro collapsed and killed almost a dozen miners and their General Manager. In the aftermath of the mishap, a high level Government team and then Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) Patrick Harding had visited the site.
In the wake of the tragedy, Harding had stated that the accident could have been avoided had the proper safety regulations been adhered to. In an interview with this publication, he also spoke of what played out during his visit, as part of the team of officials to Mowasi.
According to him, the operator Imran Khan had initially stated that he was not given advice and instructions on the proper safety practices. However, he had described this as unlikely, given that it was a large scale operation.
Government had ordered a Commission of Inquiry (COI), which was chaired by Dr. Grantley Walrond, after the accident. It compiled information from July 1 to July 31, 2015. The COI revealed that 25 deaths have been recorded in 16 accidents within the past 12 months; 75 per cent of these were due to the collapse of mining pits.
Some of the findings were that the principal cause of pit failure accidents was the neglect of safe mining practices. In addition there was evidence that shortcuts were being taken in an effort to boost production.
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