Even as the life of the current Board of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) comes to an end later this month, government yesterday stated that mining in Guyana is in a terrible state and needs to be cleaned up.
“The President wants mining cleaned up…What we see playing out confirms everybody’s belief that the regulation of mining in Guyana is in a terrible state, there is no denying that, and steps have to be taken to clean it up if we are to move forward on a healthy footing,” Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman yesterday told a press conference.
The Minister of Governance was asked for an update on the fate of GGMC’s Commissioner Rickford Vieira who the Board, headed by Clinton Williams, has asked government to fire and who Trotman instructed to proceed, pending an investigation, on leave two weeks ago.
Trotman said that he only returned to Guyana on Tuesday and is to receive a brief from the Board. He said that Vieira was still on leave and the matter is under consideration by the Board. “He (Vieira) is on leave and that matter is under consideration by the Board. I am yet to be briefed by the board,” he said.
There has been ongoing strife at the GGMC, with Williams coming in for strong public criticism over the board’s advancing of a no-confidence motion against Commissioner Vieira. It was exacerbated when details of Williams’ spending as Chairman were made public coupled with other alleged wrongdoings.
The country’s leading miners’ group, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, then announced that it had no confidence in the Board Chairman Williams.
Vieira is among four senior GGMC officials who are facing dismissal and Williams had said some decisions were being contemplated following internal inquiries and a systems review.
This newspaper was told that at the last Board meeting, the matter of the GGMC officials was deliberated on and Williams led the charge for Vieira to be fired and be replaced by Acting Commissioner Newell Dennison.
Their charge against Vieira is that he acted in dereliction of his duties as regards mines safety concerns and the provision of support to officers in the field. He is also being accused of bringing the board into disrepute by disagreeing with and disassociating himself from the board and its decisions in a public place.
Stabroek News understands that the disagreement referred to had to do with Vieira objecting to the plan to transfer over $3B in funds from the autonomous agency to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) earlier this year.
The controversial scheme by the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic government was declared ultra vires and null and void by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang in May after a legal challenge was mounted by the WPA’s Desmond Trotman.
Sources say from then on relations between Williams and Vieira took a turn for the worse.
Further, the board alleges that Vieira has disregarded its lawful instructions.
Proposals were also made by some members to have the Manager of the Mines Division transferred to the Guyana Mining School and Training Centre to serve as a teacher as they believe that he does not understand his current duties or what was expected of him.
A recommendation was also made for the Manager of the Geological Services Division to be sent to teach at the Mining School as he had been operating in a capacity “above his competence and expertise.”
Williams has said that it was up to government to decide what would ultimately happen.