It is with interest I read of the Monday, December 26 Stabroek News online article titled ‘Norway deal likely for review by new Parliament’with the views attributed to AFC leader Raphael Trotman who is reported as saying that “reviewing the LCDS to remove conditions that are excessively adverse to small miners and loggers are among the priority issues for the party,” and that the “opposition dominated new Parliament plans to review several deals and miners have in the past called for a percentage of land to be exempted from the Guyana-Norway deal since they feel they cannot meet the standards.” The AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan is quoted as saying “The AFC is never going to allow employment creation to be subsidiary to the LCDS programme.“
While it is all well and good to call for an examination of the LCDS it is interesting to note the AFC’s intent to “remove conditions that are adverse to small miners and loggers.” Perhaps before undertaking this review, it may be useful for the AFC to develop an understanding of the current situation as it regards mining and forestry in Guyana, and also what the LCDS is trying to do.
I wish to make the following observations:
§ Having read the LCDS several times, I am still to understand where it has called for a curtailing of mining and forestry. In fact, the LCDS talks about improving efficiency and performance in these sectors so that Guyana can continue to expand these sectors and at the same time maintain its forest cover and low deforestation rate and thereby qualify for payments under REDD+.
§ The LCDS has not introduced any new laws or regulations for mining or forestry. The current laws and regulations have been in existence prior to the LCDS.
§ An examination of the current situation will reveal that with the current prices of gold, mining activities have mushroomed in Guyana. Everyone wants to be a miner. Yet, with the high level of production, and huge windfalls in cash, the miners are not investing in proper
environmental practices. Take a look at the Konawaruk River, the Cuyuni and Mazaruni rivers, Groete Creek, and the list can go on. Even the mighty Essequibo River is being discoloured. And the impact is not only on our watersheds; look at the steep increase in deforestation in 2010 and expected in 2011 as well. From the report done by Poyry consultants as part of the LCDS (and available on the GFC website) mining alone contributed almost 10,000 hectares in forest loss in 2010, the largest by any sector.
§ It seems as if miners want to hoodwink the politicians and the Guyanese public into believing the LCDS is curtailing their production. The numbers clearly do not indicate that. More importantly, however, is the clear unwillingness of the mining sector to adhere to the existing mining laws and regulations even when they now have the financial wherewithal to do so.
I wish to say to the leaders of the AFC that they should let reality guide their approach. Our conservation organisations such as WWF, CI and Iwokrama have been very quiet on this issue of mining and the environment. Is it that they are afraid to speak out on this issue? Is the mining cartel so powerful in Guyana?
As a proud Guyanese I am concerned about the future of the environment of my country. I am concerned that our forests are being cut down indiscriminately and our land of many waters is constantly being polluted in the name of short-term financial rewards. I am not against logging and mining, once it is done properly and in accordance with the laws. I believe the LCDS offers us a good opportunity to manage our natural resources in the right manner, to create new jobs by improving value-adding in forestry and mining, and also create new and emerging opportunities for safeguarding our forests.
I want to leave Mr Ramjattan and Mr Trotman a simple quote from the Cree Indians: “Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been poisoned, Only then, will we realize that money cannot be eaten.”