Guyana preps response to UN over mining on titled lands

By next week, Guyana should submit a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) regarding mining on titled land in the Amerindian communities of Isseneru and Kako, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has said.

“We have the draft already,” the minister told Stabroek News on Wednesday. “We would be submitting next week.” She said that a number of agencies had to be involved in preparing the report, hence the time it took.

Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett
Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett

UNCERD had expressed concern in March over mining on titled land at Isseneru and Kako and had asked government to provide information on the cases as well as to review the granting of permits and concessions without obtaining the prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous communities. UNCERD had considered the situation of the two Region Seven (Cuyuni/ Mazaruni) communities during its 82nd Session, following information received from non-governmental organisations, the Amerindian People’s Association and the Forest Peoples Programme.

A High Court decision in January sparked protests by Isseneru villagers as well as indigenous groups and some Amerindian leaders after the ruling upheld a miner’s right to continue with operations on titled lands within Isseneru. In the case of Kako, the court issued an order restraining the village council from preventing the passage of a water dredge and other mining equipment across the Kako River, which residents had done as they feared pollution of the pristine river.

Attorney-General Anil Nandlall has said that government is not considering an amendment to the Amerindian Act at this stage as this would be premature since the parties involved have indicated an intention to appeal the decision. Kako villagers continue to oppose any mining upriver as the Kako River is their only source of water for drinking and other domestic use as well as fishing.

In March, in a plea for the safeguarding of their only water source, Kako villagers called for the immediate suspension of mining on the Kako River as well as a banning of future operations upstream from the village during a tense meeting with a government team.

The government team later reported that a working group had been formed to examine the situation, which is one of a number that have pitted Amerindian communities against miners recently.

The team at the March 19 meeting had said that it would report back to the community in a month’s time but this has not been done. Chief Executive Officer of the Indigenous Peoples Commis-sion Autry Haynes, who was part of the government team, when contacted on Wednesday said that he could not comment on the matter as he was having a discussion.

UNCERD, it its’ letter to Guyana’s permanent representative to the UN George Talbot, had said that the committee would be grateful to receive information on all the issues and concerns outlined, before July 31, 2013.

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