Aishalton residents block suspect mining move

Residents of Aishalton,  (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) yesterday blocked an excavator owned by the Romanex Mining Company from heading to the Marudi Mountains where they claimed it would be used in unauthorized alluvial mining.

“Eye pass to the highest I call this. We always have to be protecting our own lands like saving sheep from tiger every time somebody coming to abuse the lands…this matter  isn’t settled as yet and this company coming to do shallow mining what they are not even assigned to do…well over our dead bodies,” A .Da Silva declared.

The excavator that had been making its way to the company’s concession, last night remained parked in the Aishalton Police Station compound.

The Aishalton residents who blocked the excavator yesterday.
The Aishalton residents who blocked the excavator yesterday.

Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud last evening told Stabroek News that the GGMC was aware of the issue and that he was awaiting a formal report from the agency before commenting.

Residents, mostly women, told Stabroek News that they were upset that the Marudi land issue was not yet settled yet the company was bringing equipment for proposed mining. “They are not contracted to do alluvial mining and they are taking excavator to work…this place is small is our same people they want to hire to do the mining for them when they should be doing deep bed mining …what lawlessness is this,” one of the women Maria(only name given) said.

When Stabroek News visited the company’s office in Prashad Nagar reporters were met by a male who stated that no one from the company wanted to speak to the media. He became  hostile and hurled obscenities and threats at this newspaper’s cameraman and reporter when an attempt was made to take a photo of the company’s office. A female then joined him as he continued with a stream of abuse before retreating inside.

An agreement between Romanex and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment for the return of a section of their Marudi Mountain concession was signed and is nearing conclusion. However it is unclear what will be the fate of the lands.

“There has been an agreement reached whereby a section of that area will be returned. We are in the process of finalizing that particular area,” the Minister of Natural Resources had told Stabroek News.

The Ministry had come under pressure over the Marudi concession after it was learnt that Romanex and its predecessors had occupied the areas for almost 20 years without ever having produced gold according to their original plans.

It was stated in February this year that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) had been directed by the Ministry of Natural Resources to review the Mining Licence held by Romanex following a site visit.

Also in February the GGMC had swooped on the Marudi area and found dredges operating illegally in a concession that had been assigned to 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 Rupununi Miners Association (RMA), during which there were discussions about a lottery of mining parcels for them.

The minister later explained that the lottery discussed was for all residents of Region Nine and if the miners met eligibility requirements they too could enter.

The lottery did not go down well with Rupununi residents and they protested it as they stated they were not consulted on the allocations and that some of the lands were located in places that would negatively impact their lives.

Some also proposed that the lands be given to the communities and that they be responsible for their management. The lottery was later aborted in deference to the concerns raised by residents.

Residents said that they want the GGMC to visit the area to ensure what the company was contracted to do they did.

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