Dec 02, 2021 News
…insists consultations were held
Kaieteur News – The Ministry of Natural Resources has defended its decision to the sign away of mining lands at Marudi Mountain to a Canadian gold company without consulting with residents there, saying that the new agreement will also allow for small scale miners in the area to resume operations.
According to the ministry, “the current agreement is not a new prospecting or mining licence. However, there have been small scale mining in Marudi since in the early 1980s mostly by Amerindians”.
The Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat told Kaieteur News that “many consultations were held on the entire Marudi (mining) issue” but could not say whether the Indigenous people were told that a new company, Aurous Mining Inc. was granted a licence to prospect the land for gold.
The Ministry explained, “Subsequently, a Prospecting Licence (PL) was issued to Aurous Mining Inc and the Ministry wishes to state that a PL is only for prospecting, no mining is allowed within the boundaries of a PL. The PL specifically states that the “Licensee is granted the exclusive right to occupy for the purpose of exploring for Gold and Precious Metals and Minerals but not to be worked for a profit”. The PL holder is required to furnish the Commission with all the results of any exploration work on a semi-annual basis”.
Meanwhile, it was pointed out that the licensee will implement a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme of up to a total of US $250, 000 over the life of the PL which will benefit surrounding Amerindian Communities.
Therefore, for the five-year validity of the PL, there will be no large-scale mining by the company in the Marudi area, except the Region Nine small scale miners, whereby a Special Mining Permit (SMP) was granted to regulate and monitor their mining activities. Kaieteur News understands that the agreement was signed between the Rupununi Miners Association, Aurous and Romanex and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) as the regulator, on November 17, 2021. This was reportedly done following a long hiatus of several years. Nevertheless, the SMP will conduct its activities approximately 1000 acres within the Marudi area. The operations, according to the Ministry, will be guided by strict monitoring policies. This will include; a Mine Plan, a Mine Closure Plan, a Social Responsibility Plan and an Environmental Management Plan. These plans will be submitted to the GGMC for approval and is expected to be adhered to by all miners.
In addition to these measures, an Environmental Bond will be required to be paid to the Commission, as insurance. The Ministry of Natural Resources was also keen to note that the SMP prohibits the use of Mercury. “It should be noted that the SMP is restricted to 40 Miners, once registered with the Rupununi Miners Association Co-operative Society Limited,” the Ministry pointed out.
“Also, it must be noted that these are the same miners who were mining in Marudi when Major General (retd) Joe Singh was requested to conduct mediation to regulate mining activities within the area. Hence, several follow up consultations were held in Marudi, Region 9 and in Georgetown with several interest groups, officials from the Region 9 RDC, Villagers from Marudi/Aishalton and other stakeholders”, the Ministry explained.
It said that several concerns were raised, especially regarding the environment and the general health and safety of the village and those in close proximity. As a consequence, numerous safeguards were included in the Prospecting Licence and the Special Mining Permit in keeping with the GGMC’s Mining Act and Regulations.
Even though none were highlighted in the Ministry’s statement, which sought to proffer clarity on the issue, it was noted that five temporary Mines Officers were employed by the GGMC from Region 9 to assist with monitoring and enforcement of the conditions outlined in the PL and SMP. The onset of mining exploration and prospecting activities in Marudi began in the early 1940s by various companies such as; Rupununi Gold Company 1946-1949, NorMan Mines Ltd. 1981, Noranda Inc. 1984, Eastern Caribbean Mining Development (Guyana) Ltd 1988-1990, Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd -Sutton Resources Ltd 1990-1999 and Vanessa Ventures Ltd 1999-2005.
Romanex mining licence was cancelled by the Government effective November 01, 2021, so as to facilitate small miners in Region Nine with an opportunity to engage in small scale mining activities. The Ministry of Natural Resources recently came under fire for signing an agreement with the miners to resume mining activities in Marudi, Region Nine without prior consultations with the villagers.
This attracted the attention of Human Rights Lawyer, Malene Alleyne, who said that the incumbent administration should not only apologise to the locals but rescind the contract until the required processes are followed.
Her comments came on the heels of an earlier report by this newspaper of residents demanding respect from Government, as they claimed they were not consulted on the resumption of mining activities.
They protested the fact that they only learnt of the agreement through a social media post, which resulted in an almost immediate visit by members of Cabinet on Saturday.
In attendance were Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, and Minister of Amerindian Peoples Affairs, Pauline Sukhai. Officials from the Guyana Geology and mines Commission (GGMC) were also present.
The Human Rights lawyer in an interview with this newspaper was keen to note that under Intentional Human Rights Laws, Indigenous people, such as the Wapishana tribe who have settled in the Rupununi region, have a right to free, prior and informed consultations and consent. According to Alleyne, “This right requires the state to accept and disseminate information. It also entails constant communication between the parties. The state should have ensured that the Wapishana people were aware of possible risks before entering into an agreement to develop projects on their lands.”
In fact, she noted that information should have been shared with the land owners pertaining to environmental and health risks. “This is essential so that any consent that is given by the Wapishana people is informed, so they give their consent knowingly and voluntarily,” Alleyne said.
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