The Ministry of Natural Resources will be moving to allocate land at Marudi Mountain, in Region Nine, to small miners from persons who have permits but are not using them as well those who have not paid their fees, Minister Raphael Trotman announced on Wednesday.
Trotman made the announcement at a community meeting at Lethem, Region Nine, after several miners raised the issue.
The move is part of a bid by the ministry to broker a solution between the South Rupununi miners and Romanex Guyana Incorporated over mining at Marudi Mountain.
The ministry had recently said that over 300 small-scale gold miners in and around the Marudi Mountain area had called on the government to intervene and take urgent action to regularise their operations in light of the Canadian-owned company resuming operations in the area.
Marlon Johnson, a miner from the Marudi Mountain, told Trotman that even though it was law for a concessionaire to relinquish parts every year, Romanex had done no such thing over the years. While the previous government had frozen the company’s permit, Johnson said he was of the opinion that the concession should have been taken from the company and given to the people.
However, Trotman explained to the man that when a company’s permit is frozen or suspended, it simply means that their work plan is suspended. “…So Romanex or the company that came before it… They would’ve applied for a holding and, in others words, there will be no going forwards, backwards, there’s no relinquishment, there’s no mining,” he explained.
While many of the miners referenced President David Granger promising to ensure that the land was returned to them during a campaign-trail visit to community, Trotman said that he has since raised the issue with Granger, who, he said, “wants of course mining to go on and he wants people to have access to land.”
Trotman said at the end of the day the company has a mining permit and therefore the laws must be respected and followed. But he added that despite the mediation agreement that was arrived at last year and several interventions, with one being as recent as last Monday, there does not seem to be progress.
“So, what the government is working on right now is to make another portion of land, with value for you, so that we are not just going to tell you to move from here to go over there. We want to make sure that we have done some prospecting and that we have surveyed it and it has gold or good prospects,” Trotman announced to the gathering, while pointing out that for convenience they will be looking at somewhere nearby.
“The government has to be mindful of both sides and we are asking you to work with the agreement and those of you who signed on and in the interim we are looking for something right on the mountain but outside of the concession. Some other people have received permits around there and you are right, some of them have not paid their fees in several years and some of them should be relinquishing or have relinquished already,” he said, while pointing out that they will be looking to take back lands so they can be reallocated.
After a meeting last month, the company was able to come to an agreement that would allow some 70 miners to work under certain circumstances.
Several miners also questioned the safety of the new lands and Trotman assured that they would not be asked to move anywhere that is unsafe and without facilities. “I would not ask anyone to move to a location that is unsanitary and not complete. So we want to make sure that there are facilities because if you move people and there is no clean water then you are looking at a number of diseases and we are human beings,” he said.