I write this letter with a deep sense of concern for the welfare of the many families in Region 10 and other Guyanese who are taking care of their families by mining gold on a small scale at Omai.
It is necessary to recall that Omai closed its operations and departed Guyana. Small miners recognise that there is still a lot of gold there and started mining. Today, they are threatened with eviction by this uncaring government. While they are threatened with eviction, Brazilian miners and others who can afford to bribe the authorities are allowed to benefit from mining.
It must be noted that there are well over one thousand, five hundred persons involved in mining in the area. What this translates into is support for approximately six thousand persons, using the last census estimate of four persons per household. This is a significant number, and adding such large numbers to the already high unemployment rate in Linden in particular, and Region 10 in general will be devastating and do irreparable damage to the people of Region 10.
This is even more worrying when it is noted that the government has failed to create jobs for the people of Region 10. It is felt that government should work with these small miners to regularize their operations.
My understanding is that the government has signed or intends to sign an agreement with a large foreign company. While we must welcome and promote foreign investment, it cannot be at the expense of our people. This is more so when it is recalled that the area was abandoned by Omai and it was the small men of Linden who worked assiduously to transform it into a viable economic area. Like other areas, there are environmental concerns. I call on the government to work with the small miners to address those concerns.
Another duty of the government is to ensure that the police provide security and ensure that law and order prevail. There is concern that the police are being used as enforcers for corrupt officials and rich miners, rather than maintaining law and order.
It is my sincere hope that the government will let good sense prevail and not seek to deprive these small miners of a living. The government must promote foreign investment in large-scale mining while promoting and protecting small Guyanese miners.
Aubrey C Norton