Aug 28, 2017 News
By Enid Joaquin
The communities sitting on the periphery of Linden and commonly referred to as the mines, have been sorely neglected over the years, residents contend.
These mining communities are namely Maria Elizabeth, Three Friends, Coomacka and Sibierien (Old England)
Although these are located within a fifteen mile radius of Linden, some of the common social amenities enjoyed by residents within the town are yet to reach these residents.
Topping the list is lack of or inadequate potable water, lack of land line telephone services and poor infrastructure.
Most of the mining communities owe their genesis to the advent of bauxite mining in proximity to these areas.
The first village to be established was at Three Friends- where three friends from England, had reportedly settled. Other people eventually took up residence there.
Later, Maria Elizabeth and Coomacka also became populated.
Coomacka, however, became the most popular and populated, as most persons gravitated to the area, because a school had been established there.
Several persons in search of employment had migrated to Linden from various parts of the country and the Caribbean-mainly St Lucia, and some of them opted to make Coomacka their home.
This resulted in many interracial marriages and romantic liaisons with some of the original residents, many of whom were Amerindians or persons of mixed ancestry.
Sibierien(Old England)also attracted its fair share of “immigrants”, most of whom came from the Essequibo and Pomeroon areas.
These communities, like the rest of Linden, flourished in the early days.
But then, there was the changing of ownership of the bauxite industry and with it came a marked decline in the standard of living of these residents.
The nail in the proverbial coffin came in the guise of the closure of mining operations at some of the earlier mining sites.
Apart from the decrease in employment opportunities, this precipitated a lot of changes, especially in the area of transport and maintenance of roads.
Later, two logging industries, Bai-Shan-Lin and Sunshine Timbers, came on stream, but proved a disappointment to villagers who had expected a marked improvement in employment opportunities. Instead, very few villagers were employed, and so the blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of the previous administration, which was faulted for not properly scrutinizing the affairs of these two entities.
Another private enterprise, Arawak Leather Craft, which was owned and operated by a Guyanese at the defunct Montgomery workshop, was another economic venture that was established in the community, but later collapsed.
Throughout the years, residents of the communities have always suffered because of inadequate transportation.
That became a stark reality after the bauxite workers’ train stopped running sometime in the seventies or eighties.
The train which was commonly referred to as the “Pullman” did not just shuttle workers to and from the mining sites, but also provided their families with the means to go to the village (Mackenzie) to shop and take care of other business.
Because it was owned by the company, there was no charge to ride the facility.
That later changed when the service was discontinued and buses were introduced.
At first, residents were also allowed to ride the buses free, but that too, was discontinued after several changes within the management of the bauxite industry.
With those changes came increasing hardships for the residents, as buses owned by private persons took on the task of providing transportation.
That of course, came at a cost, which was determined by the condition of the main thoroughfare, which unfortunately, was mostly in a deplorable state because of neglect.
This impacted most heavily on children who had to attend school, both at Linden and Coomacka.
Children were often late for school and frequently absent, because parents could not afford the bus fares commuting took twice as long, because of the atrocious road.
However, fortunately, that situation has been alleviated with a school bus, which was presented to residents through the B’s initiative by President David Granger.
The mines communities are sorely lacking in social amenities.
Communication is not yet where it should be, according to residents.
The signals from both networks are weak, they complain, and they are yet to receive landline telephone service from GTT.
Some of these areas have become flood prone because of unregulated mining over the years.
The mined out areas accumulate water over time, which, coupled with heavy rainfall and high tides, frequently inundate the area.
Most affected is Coomacka, which lies in the passage of where most of the water runs off from the hills.
As can be expected, the water washes sand and other agregates into the river, which has accumulated, resulting in a huge beach, further exacerbating the situation.
One main thoroughfare connects the Mines, but this unfortunately is often in a deplorable state. Recently some rehabilitative work was done, and while residents are happy about this, most feel that more could be done.
Many are of the opinion that the road should be asphalted.
“Is time they give we a proper road. Just like how they asphalting the other roads, they can do this one too- is long over due,” one resident opined.
Meanwhile Mayor of Linden Carwyn Holland said that during the “good days of bauxite mining”, these communities were well taken care of.
“The decline in those communities started when what then Prime Minister Samuel Hinds called unbundling, in which certain things that central government had taken care of was cut off. They had subsequently weaned these communities or cut them off .The Hospitals and other things were “unbundled”.
Holland said that in his view this unbundling should not have been done in such a drastic manner.
“It should have been a more gradual process and more interest should have been shown in these communities.”
He however said that Government is presently working to lend more assistance to those communities.
Holland added that even though some of these areas do not fall under the ambit of the municipality, there has been some assistance, and that this would be an ongoing process.
Recently there have been calls for their inclusion, along with the Rockstone community, on the map of Linden, according to Holland.
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