Honour land promise to Marudi prospectors

-Rupununi miners urge Natural Resources minister

The Rupununi Miners Association (RMA) yesterday urged Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud to honour a promise to allot parcels in a special land lottery to persons mining illegally at Marudi, while it took aim at the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) for lobbying against the decision.

“We are calling on the honourable minister to settle the Marudi issues once and for all to return to normalcy to Marudi and Region Nine,” President of the RMA Sugreem Singh said, while saying they would hold Persaud “accountable” for implementing the promise he made after meeting with the RMA.

In late February, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) swooped down on the Marudi area and found dredges operating illegally in a concession that had been assigned to the company Romanex. After issuing the relevant notices to the miners, the GGMC began preparing to bring charges against the illegal operators.

However, days later, the Ministry of Natural Resources began meeting with some of the same illegal miners through the RMA, during which there were discussions about a lottery of mining parcels for them.
Efforts to contact Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud for an update yesterday proved futile.

However, the GGDMA recently spoke out strongly against any lottery of mining parcels for prospectors who had been caught operating illegally at Marudi. GGDMA management consultant Tony Shields had told Stabroek News last week that the association was of the view that the illegal miners should not be able to benefit from any lottery. He said the association’s position is that those found mining illegally should be charged and they should not even be permitted to participate in any lottery of mining parcels.

Singh said the GGMC informed the RMA last Wednesday that while a lottery for 60 parcels of land will be held in the third week of April, Marudi miners will be given no special preference and their names will be put into the pull with all other interested Rupununi residents.

The special lottery was to be held on March 30, in Lethem and was to be divided into two parts, one consisting of 25 parcels for 25 dredge owners who worked the Romanex concession and another 35 for other persons from the Rupunnuni district.

A source at the GGMC yesterday confirmed that a lottery for lands in Marudi will be held “late April” for persons in Region Nine but said that there will be no preferences given to anyone. “All the names of persons who have met the requirements will be placed into a bag and the same way all lotteries are done this one will be… I reiterate that it is unfair to show preferential treatment in allocating the parcels to anyone, more so to those found violating GGMC rules and the law,” the source said.

Stabroek News was also told that charges of illegal mining against the miners were recommended by the GGMC. The source said that while some of the charges were laid against some miners, others are still to face charges as some of them cannot be located.

The GGDMA has also agreed that the miners should be charged and this stance has angered the RMA. “Is this the same GGDMA who were fighting for illegal miners in Bone Yard, where pressure was placed on the government to release land for the illegal miners…? The RMA finds that two faces pertaining to alike issues must not be maintained,” Singh said.

“…Like Bone Yard, the Marudi miners were doing mining before the Romanex company. This land was being mined by the forefathers of the Runpununi people which was taken away without any consultation with the people of Rupununi and given away to a foreign company which so far does not live up to the agreement it signed with the government,” he added.

He also made reference to a meeting between President Donald Ramotar and the miners and a promise he made to them to look into the situation. “The PS [Permanent Secretary] of Amerindian Affairs [Ministry] and the president met with the miners on 9th February 2013. The president said that he will look into the matter and get back to us as soon as possible, which was not to date done,” he noted.

There are still a number of other unresolved issues surrounding the Marudi miners. The GGMC had said that not a gramme of gold from the illegal miners had been sold to the Guyana Gold Board but receipts were produced by the miners to show that they had legally sold gold to the board. This matter is supposed to be under investigation. Sources point out that any purchasing of the gold by the board confers a measure of legitimacy on the operations of the Marudi miners.

“The Guyana Gold Board and the GGMC have said that not a gramme of gold was sold from the Marudi Miners. The miners have receipts to prove that a lot of gold was sold to the gold board and licensed buyers. What is really happening? This act of purchasing gold from Marudi miners shows the legitimacy of the Marudi miners” Singh said.

A GGMC official told this newspaper that checks are being made to ascertain if the persons who sold the gold have other gold claims and that selling gold to Board does not constitute legitimate mining.

In addition, the illegal mining at Marudi also raised questions about the length of time companies like Romanex were holding down concessions without producing gold. A statement from the GGMC had said that the Marudi Mountain Mining Licence was granted to Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd. on the 17th April, 2009 after being held as a Prospecting License (large scale) from 1990 to 2009 by the said company. In February, the GGMC said it has been directed by the Ministry of Natural Resources to review the Mining Licence held by Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd. “The site visit revealed no mining or exploration on behalf of the company was ongoing, while the Company had earlier committed to carrying out exploration activities within the early part of 2013, however, it is evident that no work is expected to commence on the property in the near future as no mining plan has been submitted,” it noted.