Following information that persons are illegally occupying new positions around the Marudi Mountain area, Director of Compliance at the Ministry of Natural Resources Derrick Lawrence yesterday warned Rupununi miners against reneging on agreements they would have made during the mediation of their dispute with mining company Romanex.
At a press briefing at the Ministry of Natural Resource’s office on Duke Street, Kingston, Georgetown, Lawrence explained that information has reached the ministry of persons taking up positions that were never part of the mediation agreement or the conformity process that was followed in 2017.
“We are now understanding that the RMA [Rupununi Miners Association] does not think that they should stick to the agreement and are introducing new terms that were never part of the agreement,” Lawrence said, while noting that even though they had prior engagements to the most recent one, nothing was brought up about persons taking up more space around the areas.
Lawrence explained that during 2016, under the leadership of Major General Joe Singh, Romanex and the RMA engaged in mediation and while there was some delay in the implementation of the agreement, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman decided to jump start the process last year April by forming a committee.
“What that committee did was to call the signatories to the agreement together and started to move the process forward, trying to get compromise and agreements. And that was not an easy exercise but it was making progress. For example, Romanex had insisted that miners and the shop owners needed to remove themselves from an illegal landing, which the GGMC [Guyana Geology and Mines Commission] determined to be so,” Lawrence said.
He explained that the miners raised several issues concerning the lack of water facilities and toilets at the new landing and while those necessities are not provided by the GGMC, Trotman “in good faith went above and beyond” and provided all that they asked for.
Despite being assisted by Trotman, Lawrence said the miners did not move on the agreed deadline and the ministry above and beyond the call of duty again worked out a new deadline, which the miners set. He added that while a majority of the miners moved, some were adamant about staying, thereby necessitating an enforcement exercise to remove them.
“With the announcement of what seems to be very encouraging mineral deposits on the Marudi Mountains now, we have new advisors, some we know about and there may be some unseen hands that are involved in this as well but we would respectfully urge all parties to recognise that Guyana is a country of laws and there is only one way forward and it’s through mediation and anything else will lead to chaos and collapse in the rule of the law and will be a matter for the police and the GGMC,” Lawrence said, while emphasising that they still “stand open to meet” to continue the mediation process.
Lawrence said that the ministry is disappointed by what seems to be “reneging by all the parties concerned” on the terms and understanding that the mediation process would’ve arrived at through “great effort.”
He noted that the ministry is of the opinion that Romanex can do more to accommodate the small miners, and that the RMA should abide with the mediated agreement and take up lands set aside for them as agreed and that the South Rupununi indigenous communities should not bring any new positions after the agreement was inked, such as their position that no mining should be done in the area at all.
“It appears that persons are attempting to derail the mediation agreement to which all parties had committed, had endorsed, and celebrated. This deviation seems driven by knowledge of the quantity of resources in the area. The ministry is assured that the resources in the area are enough to provide for all the parties engage if good sense is allowed to prevail,” Lawrence said, while adding that the ministry and the government by extension are urging all parties to conform to the process and to exercise good faith, including the willingness to reach agreement through better understanding of each other’s positions and to compromise.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this news item had incorrectly stated the location as Monkey Mountain.