Since it came to light that Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud gave permission to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc permission to survey for minerals in the New River Triangle, Guyanese of all professions and persuasions have reacted with concern.
According to the agreement with Muri (a mining company), the Brazilians are permitted to survey some 2.2 million acres of land for rare earths and other minerals. The part of the area borders Brazil, and the whole of it is environmentally sensitive.
The permission undertakes to grant up to 18 prospecting licences to the company should it apply and if it meets certain standard conditions.
It was later revealed that Minister Persaud may have misled the Parliamentary Committee of Natural Resources, by omitting to mention the agreement while stating that no mining is going on in the area.
It came to light that a director of the company, Mr Yucatan Reis appeared on stage with the Brazilian Governor of Roraima at a PPP/C rally in Lethem, in November, 2011.
These revelations have caused concern among security experts, who say that allowing a company to set up shop in this area, is tantamount to giving up Guyana’s territory to Brazil. And 2.2 million acres is some 4% of Guyana’s land area. Attempts by the PPP/C administration and the company to quiet the public outcry have revealed more alarming facts. It came to light that the company intended to build an airstrip in the New River Triangle to facilitate their operations.
Politicians and others are concerned about the ethics of granting such permission to a company that has a director who openly campaigned for the PPP/C before the last general elections. Was this deal made as payback for political support?
Head of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation, Simona Broomes, expressed concern echoing the sentiments of other Guyanese miners. Ms Broomes said that local miners are often told that areas are closed off and it seems that only a select few are able to get prospecting licences.
She said that small miners end up having to lease land from large miners.
Officials in the PPP/C may claim that this deal was not secret, that the agreement was advertised. However, I submit that a deal with a company involving 4% of Guyana’s territory should be publicised in the most open manner. Moreover, such deals should be scrutinised by the Guyana Defence Force, the people’s parliamentary representatives, the GGMC, environmental experts, policy experts, local mining associations and the public, before being finalised.
A minister of government should not be granting such permissions on his own.
Given the concerns expressed by so many Guyanese of all areas of expertise and experience, I believe that the permission must be reviewed. Additionally, the officials involved should be investigated for improper conduct.
Given that a minister of government apparently acted with such disregard for the interests of the citizens of Guyana, perhaps the minister should consider resigning his post. In any event, the President needs to act to protect our territory, our interests, our minerals and our citizens.