Dozens of small miners from various mining syndicates from around the country yesterday staged a protest outside of the Guy-ana Geology and Mines Commission Headquarters, while claiming that they were still being treated unfairly by the agency.
“Syndicates in one. The way to go,” “Syndicates must have land to work,” “Small miners need land,” were some of the chants by the miners, who numbered around 40, as they stood with their placards and braved the bad weather.
President of the Karrau Mining Syndicate, Judith Blair said that for over a year the syndicates have been having problems with acquiring the land. “The period it is taking is long and some of the lands the syndicates have applied for, for some reason or another, we are not being given the land. If it is not that, they give it to someone else, [or] it is that it is reserved for some reason,” Blair told Stabroek News on the picket line, while pointing out that it was the frustration of the small miners, who have been treated unfairly for years, which prompted them to take up their placards and protest.
She said the continuous actions of the GGMC to deny the small miners land are affecting some 20,000 persons directly. “It’s a mass of people that are not working and can’t provide food on the table. We have families. We are speaking about big numbers,” she added.
Blair accused the GGMC of being corrupt and said that it was the corruption that is seeping out and drastically affecting the small miners. “Small miners have dredges that are parked for over four years. We have 15 syndicates in the country and representatives from about 11 are here right now. We want Minister [of Natural Resources, Raphael] Trotman to listen to us and to do the right thing as he promised. Stop keeping our applications for a long time,” she stressed.
Blair also related that the syndicates believe that their applications should not be reviewed by the Closed Area Committee unless they have at least one representative involv-ed in the process.
She explained that the Karrau Syndicate had incurred expenses of over $160,000 to attend a meeting with the GGMC, which led them to believe that it would resolve the issues concerning their land applications. “Instead we were asked a set of irrelevant questions, i.e what we want the lands for, and what mining equipment did we have, etc?” she said.
Royston Frank, a representative from the Region Five Syndicate, which has over 200 members, explained that the group applied early last year, right after the members came together as instructed by Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes. However, they have been unable to make any headway in acquiring land to use. “We were made to understand that two persons are fighting for this land and what we are saying is that if we are a syndicate of so many people, over 200 of us in Region Five and there are many of us who are dredge owners… you are holding back thousands of families from bread and butter,” Frank said, while adding that he is unsure why the small miners were encouraged to form syndicates and yet they are not being treated fairly and are still being denied lands to work.
“The government changed but the system in GGMC is still the same. We were encouraged to form the syndicates and we did and we’ve applied and nothing is happening,” he added.
Vice Chairman of the Berbice Mining Syndicate Lloyd Moore also pointed out that an application was made to the GGMC by the group, which paid the requisite fees only to find out a month later that the area they wanted was reserved. “It is clear to show that there is so much corruption. At the very beginning, you should’ve told us it was reserved,” he said, while stating that the miners are pleading with President David Granger and Trotman to intervene in the matter and ensure that the small miners are treated fairly.
The miners are expected to conduct another protest today in front of the GGMC as they press for the authorities to address their concerns.