There should be no political interference in cases involving illegal mining

Dear Editor,

Illegal mining is now endemic in the mining industry, with no end in sight, despite several complaints and recommendations to the authorities by the Association to take the necessary action that would at least reduce this practice. To date this type of operation is expanding to the detriment of the mining industry.

The Association is, therefore, compelled to write this open letter, because illegal mining is creating an environment where only the bullies survive in mining, and the country suffers, since these operations are not monitored for environmental compliance, and the gold/diamonds won cannot be sold to legal buyers.

It is the Association‘s perception that these illegal operations have to be conducted with the blessing of the mines officers in the field.

These are some facts that lead to this observation:-

1.  No one can operate a piece of mining equipment without the permission of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
2.  No one can mine or prospect without the permission of the Commissioner.
3.  All lawfully held lands in any district are known to the mines officer, as these are placed on maps.
4.  All state lands are also known to the officer, as these are also designated on maps; as a consequence, it is very easy for the mines officer to determine who is working illegally on state lands since by definition no miner is supposed to be working on said lands.
5.  The equipment utilized in mining today is most visible, particularly dredges, excavators, etc; these cannot be hidden from the mines officer.
The fact is that the only persons action is taken against are those who are working legally, whether for breaches of environmental regulations, or because their paperwork may not have all the i’s dotted or t‘s crossed.

When the mines officers are compelled to act because of instructions from the head office, another farce is played out where the mines officer issues a cease-work order, leaves the location, and the miner continues to work. When asked why the gold is not detained until a determination is made as to who is the rightful owner, ie the state or the property holder, and why the miner is not being charged, the Association is given a lot of excuses which really underlines the fact that there is a lot of bureaucracy. Therefore, the best course for the mines officer is to take no action other than coming to some mutual understanding that would result in a positive benefit to the concerned parties.

That is why one of the Association’s recommendations is that there should be a regulation that cuts through the red tape, which will allow the illegal operator to be charged by the mines officer at the time, he/she is caught working illegally, in accordance with the Mining Act.

The Association has also recommended that state lands, those being administered by the GGMC Closed Area Committee, as a matter of urgency, should have more lotteries and auctions scheduled, so that these properties have ownership, and can be properly managed by miners.

The fact is that there is a shortage of human resources to monitor legal miners, and therefore the ability of officers to monitor the vast area of state lands is not possible, hence the necessity for these lands to have ownership.

In conclusion the major problem of this illegal mining is when they must cease work, because the state land they are working has now been legally allocated, and they file a complaint with GGMC. Why are they not charged then and there, since they have confessed to working illegally, in some cases for several years? The Association further says not.

The following is an example of what took place when some miners were caught working illegally; having approached GGMC and received no satisfaction they had the audacity to approach APNU for assistance. The party, not understanding the issue, sought the intervention of the Minister, who asked GGMC to investigate once again, and perhaps if possible to work out a compromise with the miner to whom the property had been allocated. Of course since these miners are blatantly in breach of the law, this could not have been done so easily, so still being dissatisfied, these miners have now approached another political party, the AFC.

The Association submits that this nonsense of trying to justify illegal mining through political interference must stop, and it can be done by GGMC taking condign action against illegal miners in accordance with the mining laws leaving them no alternative but to approach a lawyer and not a politician.

Yours faithfully,
Terrence Adams
Secretary
Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners
Association

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