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Brazilians had been booted out for working illegally before deadly cave-in – GGMC

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud.

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) says the four Brazilians killed in a mining accident at Arau, Region Seven last week had previously been ordered out of the area after it was discovered that they were working illegally.

This was revealed by acting Commissioner Rickford Vieira at a news conference on Monday.

“What we have so far is those persons came through Venezuela, checked in at Eteringbang and our research in house show that they were not in possession of any valid work permit.

Our Mines Officer visited this area about three weeks back and ordered those Brazilians out, he subsequently left and apparently they went back in the area,” Vieira said.

Police on Saturday stated that around 5:55 PM Thursday Taigo Nunes Pinto, Ronaldo Da Silva Sousa, Joao Nelson Pinto Mands and Joao Gonsalves Martins were mining in a pit about 30-40 feet deep at Arau Backdam, Eteringbang, when it caved and covered them.

Another man who was injured was identified as Jose Roberto Diaz. He was admitted to a city hospital.

Vieira said a two-man GGMC team was sent out on Friday when they learnt of the incident but they only reached the area Monday morning because of the low level of the river they had to traverse. They are expected to begin the investigation on Tuesday. Vieira added that communication was also a problem and later said a report should be forthcoming before the week was out.

The men had been working for an operator who received permission from the Arau Village Council to mine the titled land.

Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud who was also present Monday, expressed sympathy about the deaths saying it was regrettable.

He noted that the Amerindian Act gave village councils direct responsibility over those whom they granted permission to mine on their lands.

“We are always hopeful that village councils when granting permissions would ensure that, one, persons operate in a safe environment and do not use techniques that can jeopardise life and limb and even property.

The second expectation we have is that persons should have good legal status and that they should be established as having entered the country legally and also have the necessary permits so that they can operate in whatever pursuit,” Persaud said.

He added that it was “disappointing” that the men were allowed to work despite their illegal status.

Given that the GGMC did not have direct control of mining operations on titled Amerindian lands Persaud said a proposal had been made at the end of the 2011 Toshaos Council to create a special mining permit for them.

“I’m hoping that through this mechanism that we can augment and help Amerindian communities to better manage mining operations. We’re very hopeful that this proposal will win some form of support with the various stakeholders.

We cannot impose the special mining permit, it is not our intention unless we get the support of the Toshaos Council, the Amerindian villages themselves.”

Persaud said the special permit would cater for training the communities in the areas of proper mining practices, occupational health and safety and other relevant areas.

“This tragedy is sad and it certainly puts the spotlight on these issues,” he added.

The bodies of the four men were flown to Georgetown Friday evening and taken to a city funeral parlour for autopsies to be performed.