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Guyana could lose millions after slippage in Norway forest preservation deal

Minister of Natural Resource Robert Persaud flanked by senior officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association.

Guyana stands to lose at least US$20 million from the forest conservation fund because the South American country has lost more of its Amazon forest mainly to gold mining, Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud said Friday.

He, however, emphasized that the 3rd National Report on Deforestation from January 2012 to October 2013 has to be verified first before confirmation on how much money Guyana will lose. “If we say that what we have is accurate and what is right, it would be in the range of US$20 million,” he said.

He said new satellite imagery technology that uses a higher resolution of five meters shows that Guyana has lost much more forest cover over the reporting period. Previously, the resolution was 30 meters. Actual figures show that the area that has been deforested has increased from 9,891 to 14,655 hectares- 94 percent attributed to mining. Agriculture alone accounts for an increase from 52 to 440 hectares. Other drivers are forestry, mining and the construction of a road to the Amaila Falls hydropower project.

In percentage terms, Guyana has breached the agreement with Norway because it has increased from 0.054 percent in the Year Two assessment to 0.079 in Year Three which is above the agreed threshold of 0.070.
“It is below what has been set as the maximum with the Kingdom of Norway. It’s just that there are some graduated levels that if you hit that threshold you see a reduction in what your payment can be,” Persaud told reporters.

Persaud also announced that stemming from the report government would be soon using real-time satellite imagery to assist the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and other enforcement agencies in swooping down on illegal mining and other activities that result in the destruction of forests.

The Minister ruled out a scaling back in gold and diamond mining but an emphasis on greater monitoring, enforcement and reforestation of mined out areas.

Government is moving to build permanent GGMC sub-stations, ensure there is information-sharing and enforcement by officers on the ground. Recent efforts to recruit and train a new batch of mines officers have not been entirely successful because, according to the minister, a number of them have been sent home.

Norway in 2009 agreed to pay Guyana US$250 million to help protect Guyana’s forests to avoid deforestation that fuels climate change.