Logging company Bai Shan Lin (BSL) yesterday pledged to fix a farm road at Moblissa, Region Ten which its vehicles had damaged but could face problems after the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) ordered a halt to its extraction of laterite from a site approved by the Regional Democratic Council (RDC).
The GLSC yesterday said that the lands at Three Miles, Mabura, Region 10, where laterite is being extracted by BSL are state lands, and no permission has been granted to anyone to extract laterite from that location.
The notice, in yesterday’s Sunday Stabroek, suggests that the Region Ten RDC had no right to grant permission to the company to extract laterite from that location to fix the Moblissa road.
When contacted yesterday, Region Ten chairman Sharma Solomon was critical of the authorities. “To now get involved and to act as though you are acting in the interest of the people is more than disingenuous…it is downright dishonest,” he said. The Region Ten RDC had identified a laterite pit at Three Miles, granted access and obtained a concession from Linmine that BSL trucks transporting the material would not have to pay the toll to cross the Wismar/Mackenzie Bridge. The material was to have been used to fix the Moblissa Road which was damaged after the company with no authorisation, mined and transported large amounts of loam for its operations.
However, based on records from the bridge, it was found that BSL had moved 144 truckloads but less than ten truckloads have been placed in a location to fix the Moblissa Road with the rest going to BSL’s Conception site. As a result, Linmine last week withdrew its concession to BSL to cross the bridge free of cost.
Yesterday, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that the GLSC has since served a notice to BSL to halt all operations and remove the company’s equipment from the site. “Further to media reports, members of the public are again advised that the GLSC is the sole entity to administer state lands.
As such the Commission is investigating reports of person(s) authorising permission to occupy or the sale of state lands,” GINA added. Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Bai Shan Lin’s use of the pit and the damage caused to the farm road have added to concerns about the manner in which Chinese companies are operating here. Bai Shan Lin had been warned earlier by another regulatory body, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission about its extraction of laterite and sand and cease orders has been issued. The company was later found to be flouting the cease orders. Increasing investment by Chinese companies here have raised questions about whether regulatory bodies will be able to exercise control over them.
Meantime, Solomon, other regional officials, BSL company representatives and residents of Moblissa held a meeting yesterday at which the company pledged to fix the road. The chairman said that they expressed disappointment that despite putting all the necessary things such as concessions in place to fix the farm road, BSL had reneged on its promise.
Solomon said that BSL Deputy General Manager, Girwar Lalaram apologized and explained that the company had two barges with equipment for offloading and wanted to ensure that their road was in a condition to receive the machinery. The chairman said that Lalaram pledged that the farm road would be fixed.
“As of tomorrow, all the machinery that BSL have will go (towards) fixing the road to the satisfaction of the community,” he said. “They have asked for a few more concessions and we have provided them with a few more concessions,” he added noting that based on what he has seen, the company is skilled at fixing roads. He expressed hope that the company’s pledge is “a perfect signal of things to come.”
The chairman said that the company also agreed to do an environmental impact assessment and to do reclamation at the Moblissa site close to the road where it had extracted the large amount of laterite. The “crater” is already threatening the integrity of the road, he said.
Solomon said that he saw the GLSC notice in the newspapers but their main concern is getting the road fixed and how this will be done in light of the entity’s actions is now BSL’s responsibility. “Our main interest right now is to fix the road,” he stressed.
The chairman observed that other companies are removing laterite in large quantities with no apparent authorization and no approval from the region “and the ministry seems ok with this.” As he was speaking to Stabroek News, Solomon said that a construction company was removing loam and stockpiling a huge quantity at Amelia’s Ward. Other companies were doing so as well, he said.
The chairman said that it was baffling that no action is being taken against the other companies and asserted that the action of the GLSC is impeding a community from getting their road fixed. He emphasised that the authorities such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission were supposed to oversee the operations of BSL in the first place and ensure that the road was not damaged. “They allowed it to happen,” Solomon said. He said that the region is not fighting for jurisdiction and he does not know whether the GLSC action “comes with a certain level of biasness.”
Another notice by the GLSC yesterday notified the public that only the GLSC has the authority to allocate, distribute or receive applications for state and government lands. “It is unlawful for any Agency or person to lease, sell, distribute or otherwise dispose of State or Government Lands without the express authority of the GL&SC,” the notice said adding that anyone in violation of these laws could be fined or face imprisonment.
Solomon said that they want the Region to benefit from investments inside the Region and will ensure that this is done.