Miners concerned about illegal Brazilians

-raise questions about low carbon strategy

The influx of illegal Brazilian miners in parts of the Hinterland and the manner in which they conduct their operations is of major concern to some stakeholders in the local mining industry.

This was among the issues discussed at the 27th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) yesterday, where a few persons who have been in the mining industry for a number of years noted that the authorities, namely the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs need to get their acts together where foreigners working illegally in Guyana is concerned.

Outgoing President of the GGDMA, Afro Alfonso, told the gathering that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the GGMC need to  do more work in determining how many Brazilians may  be working legally in Guyana. He compared the situation with the treatment  of Guyanese in Barbados noting that Guyanese are turned back in a quick manner by immigration authorities there. Alfonso said that in 2008, there were some 271 licenced dredges registered with the GGMC but noted that there are approximately 9,000 dredges currently in operation in the mining industry, some of which are being operated by the Brazilians.

Another miner, Stanislaus Jardine said that the issue of the foreigners working in an unregulated manner in the local mining industry is a disturbing one  noting that there was no Brazilian present at yesterday’s forum. He said the foreigners are fouling the industry as he recounted a recent visit by  Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to the Barlow Landing mining area in the Mazaruni, during which, Jardine stated, the Prime Minister  had to dodge polluted sections of the area left  behind by the Brazilians. He said the Brazilians do not contribute much to the economy where gold production is concerned noting that answers need to be provided as to where the gold produced by the foreigners is headed. Jardine said that on the list of the top 40 producers for 2008, no Brazilian mining operation features. He said 80% of the gold produced locally in 2008 came from registered Guyanese  operations. Jardine said the Brazilians have the technical and mechanical capability to produce significant amounts of gold.

A few miners at Mahdia told this newspaper last week that the Brazilian miners  operating there usually work among themselves  and hardly sell their gold locally. Apart from allegations of the miners  working illegally in the area, they told this newspaper that the foreigners are capable of producing a significant amount of gold but that gold does not reach the local market. A few miners at yesterday’s forum reiterated what their colleagues in Mahdia told Stabroek News last week in which they posited that the regulatory systems being  run by the authorities in the mining sector may be compromised.
Low carbon
Another issue discussed at yesterday’s forum is the proposed implementation of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). Some of the miners present at yesterday’s forum said that, while the initiative is a good one, its implementation will leave many small miners in the cold. They said that a major issue of the LCDS which will be a critical factor is exploration. They said this aspect of mining requires significant investment in machinery which will amount to millions of dollars. It was pointed out that after the exploration exercise would have been completed the GGMC will be mandated to determine whether the mining operation will be permitted to commence work. Another miner stated that he is in possession of a list of issues which President Bharrat Jagdeo should address in relation to the LCDS. The issues highlighted by the miner were mainly worst-case scenarios which he believes may come with the implementation of the LCDS. He said many persons involved in the mining sector will be left with no money to sustain their families since many small and medium scale operations will feel the brunt of the requirements of the LCDS.

Executive Director of the GGDMA Edward Shields noted that the President is expected to meet with persons involved in the mining industry in a few weeks to discuss the LCDS. He said miners will have the opportunity to voice their concerns on the LCDS with the president at that forum.

Meanwhile, Major General (retd) Norman McLean, was elected president of the association at elections held at yesterday’s AGM replacing Alfonso. Charles Da Silva will serve as his deputy while Terrence Adams and Patrick Harding will serve as Honorary and Organising Secretary respectively.

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