AFC leader Raphael Trotman is urging the withdrawal of the proposal for a six-month notice before mining can commence, while saying he is concerned that the government is on a trajectory to stifle both the existing forestry and mining sectors, which could put over 50,000 out of work.
According to Trotman, the government’s action seems to be driven by conditionalities likely imposed by governments in more developed and prosperous nations, who are more concerned about the global environment than about the survival and well-being of the Guyanese worker and his family. A government team met with miners in Bartica on Saturday, following the announcement of protest action to oppose the six-month mining proposal.
He noted President Bharrat Jagdeo’s recent disclosure that Guyana is about to qualify for receipt of an initial US$ 30 Million through the forest preservation agreement with Oslo, adding that it signals an intention to curtail domestic mining and forestry.
Trotman revealed that party member Clayton Hall has already started consultations with stakeholders in both sectors, so that the party could hit the ground running after the 2011 general elections. He said the party, once in government, would appoint a minister responsible for mining and forestry and would immediately repeal government’s six-month proposal and replace it with an action plan based on the outcome of wide and meaningful consultations with sector stakeholders. “This action plan will state the nature and timing of initiatives to safeguard the environment while ensuring that stakeholders continue to enjoy and increase the levels of production and income they are used to,” he added.
The six-month notice period and other recent measures are linked to the government’s pursuit of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and a recent forest protection agreement with Norway. It has been noted that ever since the LCDS came into being, the authorities have been taking steps to tighten regulations in the relevant industries and the mining industry has seen increased focus, with miners being told that they would have to radically transform their mindset and operations.
Trotman, noting the widespread perception within the mining industry that it is being targeted for miniaturization via the LCDS, argues that the country cannot support any programme which disrupts the industry. Citing conservative estimates, he said the mining and forest industries employ and support 250,000. He also notes that the financial sector is heavily dependent on mining and can be left exposed and put at risk, if there is a drastic downturn.
He thinks that there is need for a conciliatory rather than confrontational approach to the differences, saying that ultimately the sustainability of the environment ought to be pursued without displacing the thousands relying on mining and logging.
Trotman said the party is also in favour of the creation of a Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Environment that would formulate and oversee the implementation of the policy for conservation of resources and sustainable development.