Ministry accuses Aishalton protesters of illegal mining

-residents dispute claim

Some Aishalton residents who stopped an excavator owned by mining company Romanex from passing through the South Rupununi community on Wednesday are linked to illegal mining, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment—a claim rejected by the residents.

In a statement on Thursday, the ministry said that the company and its agents have a legal right to enter the concession. The concession that Romanex holds is outside of any titled Amerindian area, including Aishalton, the ministry declared.

Residents, mostly women, told Stabroek News on Wednesday 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), had said.

On Thursday, the ministry stated that Romanex was granted a mining licence on April 16th 2009 for a 20-year period. This gives the company right to mine for gold and other minerals over 7,673 acres at Marudi.

“A contractual arrangement was entered into between Mulgravian and Romanex for Mulgravian to provide security and management of the mining concession. Romanex and its agents are legally required to enter and conduct activities that are in keeping with the agreements of the licence granted to them by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission [GGMC],” the release stated.

However residents maintain that Mulgravian was not managing or securing the lands but claimed that they are practicing alluvial mining. “We are not stupid. Some of our own people work with them and it’s because you don’t have people monitoring them that you can’t see but they are doing shallow mining …the equipment they take in there is not for security, it’s for alluvial mining,” one resident said on Thursday.

Up to Thursday night, the excavator remained parked at the community’s police station while its operator went on ATV to the Marudi Mountains to inform the company about the situation.  Residents, meantime, held firm to their position that the excavator will not be allowed to leave the village until there is a meeting with company officials, the GGMC and their village toshao on how the mining activities will affect them.

They also want an update on what will be become of the lands the company has returned to the ministry.

Meantime, the ministry, in its statement, said that the GGMC will continue to honour its agreement with the company to support legitimate mining operations and engage all stakeholders that are interested to get involved in the mining sector.

“Some of the persons involved in the blockage of the excavator were directly and indirectly linked to illegal mining in the Marudi Mountain area. Efforts to provide legal alternatives to these individuals by the GGMC were rebuffed,” the ministry added. The residents rejected the claim.

In February this year the GGMC had been directed by the ministry 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 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.

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