Last Updated on Wednesday, 7 September 2016, 15:16 by Denis Chabrol
Mining camps in the Upper Mazaruni are running low on food, fuel and other supplies, and secondary school students have been unable to travel to Bartica to begin the new school term because a partially submerged ‘draga’ is blocking the Mazaruni River channel.
The mining raft has been stuck at the Pirimap Falls for the past three months.
Crown Mining Supplies representative, B. Persaud assured that his company’s workers have been trying almost round the clock to remove the draga that has been stuck on a falls for the past three months. He explained that due to the terrain and location, it is impossible to deploy excavators and other heavy duty machinery to remove the equipment.
Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson told Demerara Waves Online News that his ministry has been in touch with the Ministry of Natural Resources to explore what assistance could be provided to remove the mining equipment. “Together with them we are looking to remove the draga. We have to mobilize equipment and all those things to get up and remove it so I know we spoke with Natural Resources and we are getting it done,” he said. Patterson could not give a timeframe. Patterson said one of the options being considered is for owners of such mining equipment to acquire insurance or deposit a bond to help finance salvaging operations.
A draga is a motorized mining technology of a jointed metal tube mounted on a large raft with custom-builty metal hulls. The tube ends with a drill bit and a hydraulic pump. The tube is raised and lowered by steel cables powered by a truck engine mounted on the hulls and the alluvium from the river bed is passed over large sluices on the raft.
Now that the river level has dropped and the draga has shifted and blocked the most of the river channel, two jet-boat operators have since suspended operations and closed their Georgetown offices indefinitely because their vessels cannot pass.
Gold miner, Milton Branford said he has mining equipment to send in and his 22 workers have since been forced to conserve on food. “Right now, the men are cutting short. When the water is low, there is a blockage and there is no passing anymore,” Branford told Demerara Waves Online News.
Chairman for Region Seven (Mazaruni-Cuyuni), Gordon Bradford said at least 45 secondary students from middle Mazaruni villages Isseneru, Kangaruma and Tassarene have been unable to travel to Bartica Secondary and Three Miles Secondary Schools because the jet boats are not working.
With the Issano Road is in a deplorable condition and travelling by speedboat to Bartica too risky, Bradford said he would most likely be asking the Ministry of Finance to pay airfares for the children to be flown to Bartica. “That’s how serious it is and I guess it will be affecting the people of the middle Mazaruni,” he said.
Bradford, who confirmed that residents and miners who depend heavily on the jet boat services to transport fuel, spares and food are being badly affected, plans to write the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.
The Regional Chairman again publicly appealed to government to rehabilitate the Issano Road to allow for trucks to shuttle people and other supplies.