Small miners are holding firm to their position that establishing Mining Syndicates is the answer to addressing the issue of landlordism. They said that they would have endured this situation for a number of years.
Yesterday, a number of small miners descended on Georgetown to protest against the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association for the position that entity has taken in relation to dealing with the new tax regime being implemented by Government in the mining industry.
However, the group was advised by Junior Minister of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes, not to go ahead with the confrontational method of protest and were ushered into the boardroom of the Forestry Department of the Ministry.
While there, one of the miners from the Upper Mazaruni/Imbaimadai, Wallace Daniels, said that for the last 10 to 15 years small miners were subjected to bullyism by larger miners over areas found to be rich in gold.
“If gold starts to be found in one place everybody would crowd there. Whoever owns that plot would give out positions and you would pay. Sometimes you have to pay a million dollars a year at first. Then it went up to two, three, five million a year to get a position to work.
“Generally, it deteriorated to where as soon as you go and work or prospect somebody’s land and you find anything more than a five ounce of gold, within a week they come and put you out.”
According Daniels, in some instances armed security belonging to larger miners would show up, fire shots in the air and proceed to ‘wash-down’ the ‘sluice-box’ operated by the prospecting small miner, collect the gold claiming it as outstanding payments and leave the site.
“GGMC (Guyana Geology and Mines Commission) did nothing about it. Half the time the Police didn’t do anything about it, only saying well we coming and investigate. So that is what people were putting up with all the time.”
The concerned miner went on to say that the GGDMA said nothing about the experiences being endured by small miners because the persons who promoted landlordism are senior members and officers of the Association.
He clarified that under the syndicate agreement, the government would not be taking away land from members of the GGDMA but rather, would be providing access to new lands which were apparently being hoarded by GGMC for the past 15 years.
“The practice used to be that if a mining company, a large mining company has a prospecting license and for whatever reason they don’t find enough to suit them, they give it up and that would be declared a closed area.
“Within three years, if a company doesn’t claim that (land), it would go into the Open Areas or state land for which anybody can apply for a claim, or a medium scale block or large scale block but for the past 15 years the previous regime hoarded all of that land.”
The GGDMA in a full page advertisement yesterday in this newspaper attempted to set the record straight on the issues being raised by small miners who are not members of the Association.
According to the GGDMA, the cry of ‘landlordism’ and the statement that the GGMDA membership controls majority of the ‘good lands’ has intensified over the last few years as the price of gold had skyrocketed to record breaking heights, with many persons possessing no historic ties to the industry running into the bush to make a ‘quick hustle’.
“In addition to these new hustlers seeking lands, there are many unsuccessful miners with long histories in the industry who are very bitter over their lack of success due to bad luck, bad investments or in many cases, ‘blowing out their money’ on sporting, various escapades and living the high life without reinvesting sufficient funds into their mining enterprise or saving some for a rainy day.”
Further, the GGDMA said that there is no special relationship shared with the GGMC to acquire lands illegally. The Association said that the syndicate groups have been calling for the removal of the head of the Land Management division due to assertions that the head is corrupt and facilitating irregularities which only affect small miners.
However, the GGDMA said that this is rubbish since the Association would have penned multiple letters to the Commissioner of the GGMC requesting the removal of the entity’s head long before the issue was raised by the syndicates.
According to Minister Broomes, yesterday, the response from small miners who are willing to form syndicates is overwhelming. She said that it is an appeal the government is answering from the miners.
She said that this issue has captured her attention since coming into office but has only recently been featured in the media.
“In fact, one of the first things we did in 2016 was to call that big meeting at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre to listen to all the miners. So coming out of that, we decided to look at another area where they would be able to benefit in clusters.”
The GGDMA had accused Broomes of wanting to divide miners and put them against each other. However, according to the Ministry, it is absolutely not its intention or the Government’s to put miners against each other or to ‘divide and rule’ in any way.
Small miners yesterday had said that they have no personal qualms with the membership of the GGDMA but have banded together as syndicates to protect and promote their interests. Cordially enough, the GGDMA in its statement had wished the small miners who have formed syndicates the best of luck and that the formation would see members obtaining the success that has eluded them.
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