Miners’ body calls for urgent fix of interior roads

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Associa-tion (GGDMA) on Thursday bemoaned the amount of time it is taking the government to fix key roads in the interior, saying it is stymying efforts to ship supplies and fuel to mining camps.

The association said the “added down time” caused by the deplorable condition of the roads has led to an increase in the operational cost to miners, who now have to pay double to have their fuel and other supplies delivered to their camps.

“Additionally, many of our miners’ trucks and other equipment are being severely damaged due to these roads. This once again puts additional financial pressure on the miners as unnecessary maintenance cost,” a statement from the GGDMA said.

It posited that the gold and diamond mining sector has been the “backbone” of the country’s economy over the past decade and that “sane thinking” should be expected to ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place.

“But unfortunately this is far from the case. All that seems to be happening is that fees and taxes by the government agencies seem to be increasing with no proper incentives for miners,” it added. The statement said that currently miners are paying “billions of dollars” in royalties to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and, therefore, the association questions why all of the monies that are being paid are not used to ensure that the roads are properly maintained.

A truck stuck in the mud on the Puruni Road in Region Seven last month

The association questioned why the cost of maintaining the roads was not “properly reflected” in the 2017 budget and called for greater collaboration between the GGMC, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance and the Hinterland Infrastruc-ture Committee (HIC) to improve the quality of the roads for the betterment of the miners and the sector as a whole.

The GGDMA said that in light of the conditions of the roads, it was questioning whether this is the “good life” that was promised to the miners, who they said make tremendous sacrifices and contribute a lot to the country’s economy.

“The GGDMA remains steadfast to promote and protect the rights, interest and welfare of all miners,” the statement added.

A driver, who usually traverses the Puruni Road to get to the interior, told Stabroek News that he could not find words to describe the condition of the roads. “Especially when it does rain, it does be worse. I can’t even describe what does happen down there. The road does get slushy, slushy and nuff of them big trucks does fall in and stick up,” the man said, while pointing out that miners and other workers would then have to spend hours trying to get their vehicles out.

“Sometimes all four the wheels does reach in the wet mud and it does be impossible to take them out like that. Sometimes half of the truck does fall in and all your goods and fuel at the top does drop off and get destroyed. It’s really unbearable now. We been dealing with this for years and years and nothing seems to be changing. You can’t keep having your miners going through these conditions, it ain’t easy at all, especially for the drivers like me that does got to be real careful but even when you being careful you does still reach in trouble cause you can’t avoid it all,” the man related.

He also explained that in addition to having to “shuttle” their fuel and goods in, the truck owners have other expenses on their heads. “Them man does got to spend nuff money too on their trucks cause one journey through these roads does bruk up like 100 parts. Every time you make one trip you does got to repair more than one thing so it don’t make sense, you know. It’s a losing battle right now but people does force through it because they ain’t got nothing else to do. Somebody got to do it,” the man explained.

In addition to the Puruni Road, the association pointed out that the roads in Region Seven from Karrau to Buckhall and Issano need immediate works.

In Region Eight, the roads from Eagle Mountain to Konawaruk Junction to Muriwa, Bartica to 110 Miles, Brian Sucre Junction to Blackwater need maintenance and rehabilitative work.

And in Region One, the roads from Five Star, M4 Junction to Noseno, Matthews Ridge to Baramita and Arakaka need urgent maintenance.

Last week, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson announced that weight restriction systems are currently being put in place to address the deterioration of several hinterland roads used by miners.

Patterson made the announcement to the National Assembly in response to questions posed by PPP/C member Juan Edghill about the condition of several hinterland roads.

Acknowledging that there was an issue with overweight trucks, he informed that the ministry was able to procure three automated scales, which will be deployed in several areas.

“The same roads the Honorable Member mentioned, a truck recently broke one. This month alone, three bridges on the Linden to Lethem road were broken by big trucks,” he said.

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