Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud yesterday announced that beginning this year, sand mining, particularly along the Linden-Soesdyke Highway area will be properly managed and monitored.
Speaking at a review on the future of sand mining with several stakeholders and sand pit operators at the Conference Room of the Splashmin’s Fun Park yesterday, Persaud noted that there has been a proliferation of sand mining activities in the area (Linden-Soesdyke High-way) but this has not been captured by the Ministry’s data.
“There needs to be proper management of sand mining in Guyana particularly along the Linden Soesdyke belt. I want to state the fault starts from our end… We would have to enhance ability and capabilities of monitoring what is taking place,” he said. “It is important that we do proper monitoring and proper tracking of what is taking place. We want to correct, this year, our ability to monitor what is taking place.”
In this regard, the minister said, efforts are being made to maintain and upkeep obligations and ensure that activities are done consistent with regulations and do better monitoring
“We plan to advertise for 25 more staff. Some will be dedicated to the areas we have not been paying enough attention to in terms of sand and other resources. [We] will be putting down scales to capture the true volume. We have already identified an area in the Timehri, Linden Soesdyke Highway where we will be able to track what is going on,” he stated.
According to Persaud, many persons have been lax in paying their royalties and the ministry is looking to place more emphasis on this area. “Government [is] …being denied what belongs to the people in terms of royalties. What is the royalty? $15 per tonne; there is $132 million in outstanding royalty. Several persons have come in and we want to invite more people to come and settle. [We] don’t want to be harsh this year but people are making money and I always tell people that if you are engaged in an activity and you are not making money get out of the activity.
“Give up the resource and let someone else do it. Don’t come and complain that I am not making money so I cannot pay the royalty. It is your duty,” he said.
“We have heard the excuse given by persons that they are working on a government contract and that we must waive the royalty. GGMC has been buying that excuse and that is absolutely rubbish. There is a mechanism of waiver… People have to settle and we want to work with you.
Those who have decided that they are not coming they will hear from us to settle, we will accept whatever payment plan,” he posited.
With regard to environmental management, Persaud informed that while sand mining activities are being carried out in a way that is disruptive to the environment, the ministry is now putting in place better enforcement regulation.
“For the first time having had the EPA Act we are now putting in place enforcement, now drafting enforcement regulation activities. What we should have done 10 to 15 years ago. [We are] putting these things in place not to make life difficult for you but to ensure that activities are consistent with the laws of Guyana,” he said. “This is not President Ramotar law and Robert Persaud law and we [are not] looking to make ourselves important, but these are laws in the book that we have to comply with.”
He stressed too that one of the issues the ministry is seeking to address is to deal with persons applying for land for one purpose and then using it for another reason. “Persons have been applying for agricultural land but then later [turning] up to GGMC and saying I have this land to get a permit to engage in sand mining,” he said. “Persons were not denied land to do agriculture but persons took land under the pretext of agriculture because they thought that would have been a short-cut way and then they turn up and say I have lots of sand and I have the demand. Those are issues that we will have to address,” Persaud stated.
During the question and answer segment of the review, one miner, Raymond Alli, vociferously claimed that the GGMC is out to embarrass the ministry and that it is not in support of the ministry. He also lamented the attitude of several senior officers at the organisation.
Persaud responded that the GGMC should not be blamed for the actions of its officers. “… Any organization, any business, any family will have persons who will not toe the line or live up to the expectation. It’s a natural thing and we have the same situation in many of our agencies including the GGMC, whereby you may have officers who may be performing to the best of their ability,” he said.
Persaud also posited that there are certain laws in Guyana which GGMC must conform to, as no entity or officer exists separately “outside of the ambit of the law.”