Last Updated on Thursday, 9 December 2021, 23:59 by Denis Chabrol
Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat on Thursday defended government’s decision to allow small-scale gold mining at Marudi Mountain, South Rupununi, saying that residents had lobbied government as a means of earning a living.
“We, as a government, we need to strike a balance somehow or the other because our people need to be gainfully employed, our people need to be given opportunities too so we need to balance the extraction of natural resources with the protection of the environment,” he told reporters.
Mr. Bharrat also said the miners have signed agreements barring them from using mercury and subjecting their operations to periodic monitoring. “That was one of the main concerns that was raised at the consultation,: he said. The small miners, he said, have since been confined to a smaller area. He added that environmentalists from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, geologists and five temporary mines officers in the Region. “They can be there and monitor and not only report to GGMC and the government but also the local leadership in Region Nine,” he said.
On the vexed question that the Guyana government has not consulted with the Amerindian community, the Natural Minister would only say that that “was not totally true” as he had held meetings with residents of Marudi, the Director of Marshall Romanex, and the leadership of the community.
He said residents of several communities, had been asking him during several visits, when the Marudi Mountain mine would be reopened. “If you look at Deep South, there aren’t much opportunities and to get the agriculture produce, it’s a nightmare and it’s very expensive,” he said adding that Marudi is seen as a viable source of livelihood. The Minister said recent objections and criticisms of the reopening of Marudi might be politically motivated. “I know that there are a few comments but it’s a handful of people, it’s a few people who probably have political objectives who have a political agenda or who are being asked by politicians to make comments in the negative,” he added.
Mr Bharrat denied that Romanex was engaged in large-scale mining as the licence that was issued to that company has been rescinded and a prospecting licence issued for five years.
Small miners, he said, needed to respect Indigenous Peoples, employ them and purchase groceries and other items from Lethem.
Drugs, alcohol and drug abuse, the Natural Resource Minister said, could lead to the mining operation being closed down.