Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud on Wednesday released a transcript of proceedings of a recent meeting of the Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources to prove that he did not lie to that parliamentary body about activity in the New River Triangle Area.
Persaud has in the last two days been busy fending off accusations by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) that he was untruthful when he said no mining activity was being undertaken in the New River Triangle.
The Minister earlier this week began coming under scrutiny after documentation under his signature surfaced to show that he had granted Permission for Geological and Geophysical Survey (PGGS) to a Guyanese company, Muri Brasil Ventures Inc; in November, 2012. The permission provides a window for up to 18 prospecting licences to be granted for rare earth metals, bauxite, gold, diamonds and other mineral if an application is made.
Following is the transcript of the relevant section of the question and answer session of the meeting of held on November 27.
“Lt. Col. (Ret’d) [Harmon]: Okay. Well I understand that. Thanks Minister. My next question is under this issue of reality of mining. Minister there has recently been some publication in the newspapers about mining licenses, leases issued in the area of the New River Triangle or in the contagious area to the New River Triangle. Would you be in a position to state if in fact mining leases were issued for lands in that area or in those areas and if so what were the considerations for the issue of these leases.
Mr. R. Persaud: As of 11:25 a.m today I am advised by the Manager of the Land Management Administration Section of the GGMC that no mining permit licenses or any permission be given for mining in the area you have outlined. I want to make that categorical. What I do know and I am also be advised by the GGMC is that there have been applications for persons to engage and these applications are not being considered at this point in time until and unless we so have a policy direction of encouraging and allowing mining. The position of the Government at this point in time is not to permit mining in that specific area as you have so highlighted.
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) [Harmon]: Thank you very much Minister. Is there though any permission or anything for any activity other than mining say for example forestry or forestry concessions issued for in that area?
Mr. R. Persaud: I am advised by the technical officer…. I am told by the staff that there is no permitted forestry operation in that particular area.”
Demerara Waves Online News later asked Minister Persaud whether he missed an opportunity to be more open when Harmon asked “Is there though any permission or anything for any activity other than mining say for example forestry or forestry concessions issued for in that area?
Persaud responded by saying that he responded in that manner because Harmon went on to specify forestry. “If Mr. Harmon had asked whether we had any prospecting, PGGS… I mean the information is public,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
The Minister said he believed that Harmon was aware of that a PGGS was awarded for that area and that is why he did question that.
Meanwhile, Harmon reiterated that Persaud should resign because “there was a big variance” between what was said in the committee and publicly. The APNU parliamentarian said his question before the committee had given the Natural Resources Minister enough scope to provide an adequate answer. “The question that was posed was broad enough for him to actually say that there were some documents, there was some kind of agreement to take certain steps in the area but he never said so. He basically said that there was nothing there,” Harmon told DemWaves.
At any rate, Harmon believed that the minister has committed an “unforgiveable” act because he appended his signature to an activity in the New River Triangle which is being claimed by Suriname.
However, Persaud insisted that the area is part of Guyana’s sovereignty and the country has a right to know its resource base to inform future policy decision-making.
Chairman of the Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine said he received correspondence, including the transcript of that segment, from the Natural Resources Minister and that he would be studying it.
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan said he would first want to peruse a transcript of that segment of the proceedings of the Committee on Natural Resources before taking steps to possibly drag Persaud before the Privileges Committee.
DemWaves was told that the area for which the PGSS has been granted is closer to the border with Brazil rather than Suriname.
The Natural Resources Minister said he has instructed the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to post on its website “every single activity, permission”.
Work on a PGGS can take up to 10 years.