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Guyana to lift its “no mining” policy in New River after surveys

The New River Triangle

Guyana’s government and opposition are at one on the territorial sovereignty of the New River area but Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud says it will lift its “no-mining” policy for that area only after the mineral-make up is known.

Persaud’s comments came almost two weeks after a Guyana-registered company, Muri Brasil, scrapped plans to carry out a multi-million dollar Geological and Geophysical Survey of the area, citing widespread questions about transparency of how it was granted permission. Linked to the permission was a guarantee that the company would have received several prospecting licences after the survey.

For the first time, government has explained its “no-mining” policy in the area, saying that it had nothing to do with Suriname’s decades-old pre-independence claim to the Triangle. Instead, he said government has not been authorising prospecting and mining there because of the need to first conduct a detailed survey of the area to determine the mineral properties and resources of that area.

“The policy that we have at this point in time is that we are not sure about the resources of the area so you cannot take a decision if you are not aware of the facts. Likewise, we are not sure what are the true geological make-up as well as the other resources that the area may have,” Persaud told Demerara Waves Online News.

He assured that the Guyana government’s stance had nothing to do with Suriname’s claim to the 6,000 square mile area in south-eastern Guyana. “Our policy is not based on the issue of territory. That is our territory and we are free as a nation to engage in exploration and developmental activity in any part of our territory,” he said.

Persaud again criticised the opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) for scaring away Muri Brasil from plans to survey the area at a cost of more than US$10 million. “Government cannot front-load ten million US dollars to go and do that. It’s an undertaking that persons would have done,” he said

The opposition coalition APNU stressed that the New River Triangle is Guyana’s sovereign territory. However, it was opposed to mining activity because it was interested in keeping the biodiversity of the area intact. “The primary concern, I think, that we have in relation to the exploration and mining in the New River Triangle has everything to do with its absolutely unique condition as a biodiversity treasure. It is really the last completely pristine, untouched area of the Guyana forest and any decision taken to extract from that area has to be very, very seriously considered,” said APNU Vice Chairman, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine.

He argued in favour of the New River Triangle being a closed area that should be subjected to detail studies about it make-up and biodiversity.

The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, however, dismissed claims that New River is the last remaining pristine area of Guyana. Persaud countered opposition critics, saying that efforts should be made to diversify Guyana’s mining industry even to search for rare earth minerals as had been the intention of the Muri Brasil-sponsored survey. “I make absolutely no apology for this in looking at new areas and looking at new activities and they can say what they want. As long as things are done in a legal and in a transparent way, we have look at the opportunities for our country,” he said.