Ministry sending officers to check reports of mining pollution in Mazaruni

Officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) have been ordered by the Ministry of Natural Resources  to the Puruni and Mazaruni areas in Region Seven to investigate reports of severe mining pollution of rivers there.

The move by the Ministry follows an April 13th statement by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) charging that there was serious mining pollution in the rivers of the Upper Mazaruni.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said it had noted  media reports based on the GHRA statement.

“We can confirm that the Minister of Natural Resources has ordered a team comprising officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Ministry’s Compliance Division be despatched into the affected areas in Puruni and Mazaruni in a matter of days with a view to ascertaining the severity of the impact and the accuracy of the reports and putting in place urgent corrective measures”, the ministry said.

It added that as part of its 2017 programme, the Ministry has made the issue of compliance in all natural resources operations a high priority.

“Our Compliance Division, created in 2016, is now being staffed. This notwithstanding, the Compliance Division has already been integral in a number of recent compliance enforcement campaigns in collaboration with the GGMC which have resulted in the shutting down of a number of mining operations, including river mining, due to environmental infringements”, the ministry statement added.

The Ministry has also mandated the Compliance Division of the Ministry to work with relevant stakeholders and agencies on a rapid assessment of the situation in order to formulate long-term remedial policy adjustments.

At the inception meeting of the new Board of Directors of the GGMC on April 13, 2017, the statement said that Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman charged the members of the Board to focus on Environmental Management and more proactive initiatives for monitoring of water quality.

“Government recognises that mining has been for decades, and will continue to be, one of the mainstays of our economy and will not shirk its responsibility to ensure that it is done in a manner that respects the environment. As a nation, our efforts have not been as effective; especially in the area where mining effluent from both within Venezuela and Guyana combine to affect our rivers”, the statement said.

The Ministry said it was appreciative of the vigilance of agencies such as the GHRA on these matters.

After a recent visit to the Upper Mazaruni, the GHRA said in its April 13 release that the Puruni River is “a ruinous mess of tailings and devastation” for miles and is “unnavigable for large stretches.”

“Guyanese gold-mining effluent in the Cuyuni, added to that coming from Venezuela, spews poisoned yellow effluent into the Essequibo at Bartica in such volume as to discolour large stretches of this ‘mighty’ river’s western shores,” it said, while pointing out that the Potaro region, which has been “plundered for decades by mining,” is on a course to be reconfigured on the country’s maps.

It noted that large stretches of the Upper Mazaruni itself, between Jawalla and Imbaimadai, are in danger of becoming unnavigable in the current dry season even by canoe, if the current “reckless and illegal dumping of tailings along its banks continues unabated.” The GHRA said even though mining on that stretch of the Upper Mazaruni River and on its banks are illegal, it continues unhindered every day.

It added that because of the buildup of debris, which create sandbanks and reefs, experienced Amerindian boat-pilots are forced to seek the assistance of miners that are familiar with the river in order to navigate safely away from the newly-created obstacles.

“Incredibly, in the present dry season, a person can now wade across sections of the Upper Mazaruni River, something which will become commonplace if mining is allowed to continue unhindered,” it warned, while explaining that the blockages in the rivers result in Indigenous communities along the Mazaruni not being able to eat fish from the river, even without the deterrent of mercury poisoning.

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