Internet Radio

Court injunction blocked inspection of mining pit where 10 miners died

Top officials in the mining sector during a visit to Pepper Creek, Konawaruk where 10 miners died Sunday after a gold mining pit caved in.

The death of 10 miners in a pit at Region Eight, which occurred due to a breach of safety measures, could have been possibly avoided if there was no injunction that barred the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) from enforcing regulations, according to that regulatory agency.

“It is important to note that when the courts grant such Injunctions, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission is prevented from carrying out its lawful functions of monitoring and inspecting mining operations within the sector, which regrettably, led to the demise of the ten miners,” said the regulatory agency in a statement.

The GGMC said after the May 17, 2015 mining collapse at Pepper Creek, Konawaruk, investigators found that the miners violated procedures for digging pits. “The accident occurred due the collapsing of two sides of the mine pit. The operator failed to adhere to standard safety practices when mining is progressing beyond 50 feet in depth. Further, the pit limits were too narrow to allow for safe operation utilizing the current method of mining,” said the Commission.

The GGMC says that as late as April 1, 2015, a team of officers from the Commission were inspecting operations in the Pepper Creek, Konawaruk area and found the mine operated by Imran Khan “was unsafe and breached several aspects of the Mining Regulations. Attempts were made by the technical officers to advise/sanction the personnel at the site, but they were reminded of the injunction and as such, legally, no further action could have been taken.”

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) said a preliminary probe by a high-level team on Monday “concluded that the heavy rains in the area, improper mining design and poor safety practices were among the causes for the accident.” The GGDMA expressed concern  aboutr the negative impact of the injunction on the holder of the property and on the GGMC. “As a consequence the injunction may have contributed to inadequate monitoring of the affected mining operations,” said the association.

The GGMC said its senior management had asked that steps be taken to allow the commission to have hearings before mining-related injunctions are granted. The Commission stated that although that was was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Board of Directors, “nothing substantial was done, as such, the situation remains the same.” “There are several other injunctions outstanding against the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.”

The dispute over the mining property, where the pit caved in, dates back to August 8, 2013 when the GGMC received a complaint from Edward Hopkinson, owner of mining permits H-78/MP/000 and H-79/MP/000 that Imran Khan, the operator, was mining on one his property without the necessary approval. The Commission recalled that it conducted an investigation on August 11, 2013 and found that they were several breaches in compliance with the mining regulations and the complaint by Hopkinson was substantiated. Two legal documents, a Ceased Work Order and an Order to Remove within 48 hours, were issued.

On August 21, 2013, the GGMC said Khan obtained an Injunction against Mr. Hopkinson and the Commission. The relevant section of the Injunction which applies to GGMC states the following:

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Second Defendant, THE GUYANA GEOLOGY AND MINES COMMISSION by themselves, their servant and or agents whosoever are restrained AND an interim injunction is hereby granted restraining the Second Defendant whether by themselves, their servants or agents whosoever or howsoever or otherwise from interfering with the Plaintiff’s use SD No. 12126, SD No. 12127, SD No. 12128 and SK Kobelco Excavator in accordance with the Agreement between the plaintiff and the Defendant on the 20th May 2013 and permission issued pursuant to regulation 149(1) of the Mining Regulations until the hearing and determination of a summons returnable for the 10th September 2013 at 9am to continue this injunction….”

The GGMC says the summons in the matter has not been determined. Therefore, the injunction has continued and been in force against GGMC since 21st August 2013. The Guyana Geology and Mines is thus prohibited from interfering with the mining operation of the Plaintiff.

The high level team from the GGDMA comprised of Mr. Patrick Harding, President, Ms. Simona Broomes – President, Guyana Woman Miners Organization (GWMO), Mr. Kris Ramdas – Senior Engineer, GGMC and Mr. Colin Sparman – Administrative Coordinator, GGDMA. They were accompanied by Dr. Rupert Roopnarine – Deputy Chairman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

Roopnaraine is tipped to be the minister responsible for natural resources following the May 11, 2015 general election.