The Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ), yesterday, delivered a ruling in favour of a miner, who challenged the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC)’s authority to close down his operations for breaching regulations of the Amerindian Act.
Wayne Vieira, a gold miner, had challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the High Court which had quashed a Cease Work Order (CWO) issued against him by the GGMC.
According information released by the CCJ, Vieira had contended that the order was not validly issued nor was it retroactively validated by the Amerindian (Validation Commencement) Act 2010.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday determined that the GGMC had no authority to issue a CWO directing Mr. Vieira to cease all work under his mining permits because he had no agreement with the Chinese Landing/Tassawini Village Council.
According to the ruling, the CWO was issued on November 26, 2010 under the Mining Regulations because of the absence of an agreement with the Village Council, as was required under the Amerindian law. However unknown to the Commission, Vieira had made several attempts since 2009 to secure a new agreement with the Village Council.
His efforts, which included engaging the Prime Minister, who was the Minister responsible for mines and minerals, proved futile. The CWO was subsequently issued under the Mining Regulations because of the absence of an agreement with the Village Council, as was required under the Amerindian law.
According to the CWO, the Mines Officer deemed the stoppage to be ‘absolutely necessary’ for the maintenance of the public peace or for the protection of the State’s, or private persons, rights.
But, Vieira moved to the High Court where he successfully challenged the decision to issue the CWO.
Justice Diana Insanally later determined that the order could only be issued in relation to breaches concerning the Mining Act and not the Amerindian law.
The Commission took the matter to the Court of Appeal and won, following which the miner appealed to the CCJ.
The Commission had argued that Vieira’s attempts to reach an agreement to mine the lands, and his argument that he was treated unfairly, were irrelevant as the organization was required by law to automatically issue the order.
Vieira, on the other hand, contended that not only was his conduct and treatment relevant, but that the Mines Officer was not authorized to issue the CWO for a breach of any law other than the Mining Act.
Upon review of the Act, the CCJ determined that the Minister responsible for the Mining Act could not make regulations under that law with a view to aiding or enforcing the requirements of another law – the Amerindian Act.
“As such, the Mines Officer was not authorized to issue the CWO under the Mining Regulations for a violation of the Amerindian Act. It was observed, however, that this does not prevent the Commission from dealing with disputes arising under the Amerindian law if the dispute could be regarded in an appropriate case as also being a dispute under the Mining Regulations.”
However, the Court determined that this would not apply in this instance.
The Court also decided that the law required the issuance of the CWO to be ‘absolutely necessary’, which had not been established or even contemplated by the Mines Officer or Commission. It was also concluded that Mr. Vieira was entitled to an opportunity to oppose the order and to challenge whether it was absolutely necessary.
Accordingly, Justice Insanally’s decision was restored and Mr. Vieira was awarded costs in all three courts.
The application was heard on December 1, 2017, and judgment issued less than a week later, by the Bench of the CCJ led by President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron.
Vieira was represented by Ms. Jamela A. Ali and Mr. Sanjeev J. Datadin, Attorneys-at-Law., The Commission’s Attorney-at-Law was Mr. Nikhil Ramkarran.
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