Sep 17, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Guyana Manganese Inc. (GMI), a subsidiary of the Bosai Minerals Group is coming under renewed pressure to address ongoing issues, in relation to massive flooding caused by its activities and contamination of the domestic water supply, in the mining town of Matthews Ridge.
Residents have revealed that a koker in Lower Pakera, which was blocked by GMI has broken away causing flooding to the main access roads, to a number of nearby farms, and has caused several residents to seek refuge in trees, as they wait for the waters to recede.
GMI is reported to be actively assessing the situation, but has also been allegedly restricting residents’ access to the affected areas, and barring them from taking pictures and capturing footage of the incident.
According to Carl Fraser, a local community activist and blogger at the Matthews Ridge Times, who has been following the operations of the company closely, the situation right now in Matthews Ridge needs urgent attention from the responsible authorities. Mr. Fraser stated, “Something must be done as early as possible about this.”
He went on to say that although residents have been complaining about the “poorly constructed koker,” “no one took it seriously.” A video posted on the Matthews Ridge Times Facebook page shows several feet of water blocking the main road, while someone can be seen trying to swim across from one side to the other.
Mr. Fraser, who has been aiding efforts to organise a protest against the company’s operations, went on to disclose that “people’s farms have been destroyed, animals killed” and another resident called to notify him that she has sought refuge in a tree along with her three children, as the flood waters continue to rise.
Calls to obtain a comment from the company were unsuccessful.
Mr. Orlando Thorn, the NDC Chairman of Port Kaituma, Matthews Ridge, and Arakaka, stated that he is currently undertaking investigations.
Meanwhile, according to GMI’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), regular testing for the concentration of manganese in surface and domestic water supplies should be carried out routinely in collaboration with the Guyana Water Inc. (GWI).
When contacted, GWI’s Production and Distribution Supervisor at Matthews Ridge, Clinton Ash, confirmed that GMI is obligated to routinely conduct these tests but, according to him, this has not happened. Mr. Ash stated, “The company needs to pay more interest in what goes on within the community.” He further went on to state that “they are not doing anything at all when it comes to the community’s wellbeing.”
The EIA revealed, “given the geology of the Matthews Ridge area, manganese occurs in naturally high levels in the water supply.” The document warns that exceeding safe water concentration levels of manganese in the water supply would lead to adverse health impacts like impaired intellectual capacity in young children, mental health conditions, and manganism, which is similar to Parkinson’s Disease.
According to the EIA, when tested, the levels of manganese in all surface water in Matthews Ridge exceeded the safe levels established by the World Health Organization. The EIA found that even the aquifer located at Hill 3, which produces potable water, revealed levels of manganese above the WHO recommendations, when tested.
However, when Mr. Fraser, who is often credited as being in the know about all things related to GMI, was asked about the water testing and manganese levels, and whether the contents of the EIA were known to the villagers, Mr. Fraser stated that “none of this information has been explained to the villagers.”
The flooding from the koker is also reported to have damaged a number of farms located in the area amid ongoing accusations from local farmers who, prior to this latest incident, were already complaining about the company’s operations.
Joseph Dennis, a farmer from Matthews Ridge, revealed that, “the Chinese are thieving out my crops.” When asked about how his farm has been affected by the mining operations, Mr. Dennis, like many other Amerindian farmers in the area, is unhappy about how his livelihood is being affected.
According to research from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), mining and other extractive activities may impact food security, if their activities are not closely monitored. The WWF warns that the outlook is particularly dire “if the [extractive] activity results in the pollution of rivers, creeks, or other water bodies that are important for communities.”
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