Miner wins cease order case against GGMC at CCJ

The CCJ HQ in Trinidad and Tobago

Miner Wayne Vieira who had been issued a cease order by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) today won his case at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

A release from the court today said that the CCJ had determined that the GGMC had no authority to issue a Cease Work Order (CWO) directing Vieira to terminate all work under his mining permits because he had no agreement with the Chinese Landing/Tassawini Village Council.

The CCJ HQ in Trinidad and Tobago

The release said that allegedly unknown to the GGMC, Vieira had made several attempts since 2009 to secure a new agreement with the Village Council. His efforts, which included approaching the Prime Minister, who was the Minister responsible for mines and minerals, proved futile. The CCJ said that the CWO was issued on November 26th, 2010 under the Mining Regulations because of the absence of an agreement with the Village Council, as was required under the Amerindian law. According to the CWO, the Mines Officer deemed the stoppage to be “absolutely necessary” for the maintenance of the public peace or for the protection of the rights of the State or private persons.

The CCJ noted that Vieira successfully challenged the decision to issue the CWO in the High Court before Justice Diana Insanally who ruled that the order could only be issued in relation to breaches concerning the Mining Act and not the Amerindian Act. The GGMC appealed to the Guyana Court of Appeal and won there following which Vieira appealed to the CCJ.

The GGMC argued at the CCJ that Vieira’s attempts to conclude an agreement to mine the lands, and his argument that he was treated unfairly were irrelevant as the Commission was required by law to automatically issue the order. The CCJ said that Vieira contended that not only was his conduct and treatment relevant but that the Mines Officer was not authorised to issue the CWO for a breach of any law other than the Mining Act.

Upon review of the Act, the CCJ said it determined that the Minister responsible for the Mining Act could not make regulations under that law with a view to aiding or enforcing the requirements of another law – the Amerindian Act. Therefore, the Mines Officer was not authorised to issue the CWO under the Mining Regulations for a violation of the Amerindian Act. It was observed, however, that this does not prevent the GGMC from dealing with disputes arising under the Amerindian law if the dispute could be regarded in an appropriate case as also being a dispute under the Mining Regulations. However, the Court found that this would not apply in this instance.

The CCJ also determined that the law required the issuance of the CWO to be ‘absolutely necessary’, which had not been established or even contemplated by the Mines Officer or Commission.

“It was also concluded that Mr. Vieira was entitled to an opportunity to oppose the order and to challenge whether it was absolutely necessary. Accordingly, Justice Insanally’s decision was restored and Mr. Vieira was awarded costs in all three courts”, the release said.

The application was heard on 1 December 2017, and judgment issued less than a week later, by the Bench of the CCJ comprising Sir Dennis Byron, President of the CCJ, and Justices Wit, Hayton, Rajnauth-Lee, and Barrow.

Vieira was represented by Jamela A. Ali and Sanjeev J. Datadin, Attorneys-at-Law, and the Commission’s Attorney-at-Law was Nikhil Ramkarran.

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