Gold and diamond miners on Tuesday approved a vote of no-confidence in Natural Resources and the Environment Minister, Robert Persaud for his management of the mining sector. The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) also received cash and pledges on the spot so far totalling GUY$3.3 million to fund a mobilisation campaign against the decision by authorities to cease processing new river claims.
When contacted, Persaud said a statement would be issued on the matter. The ministry earlier this month announced the decision due to numerous complaints about pollution and environmental degradation. GGDMA’s President Patrick Harding also announced that at a meeting earlier Tuesday with Persaud, they agreed to set up a nine-member committee to review the situation. Three committee members would be drawn each from the GGDMA, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “To state that you are not accepting applications for river mining claims, we find that unacceptable,” Harding told the meeting.
He noted that the GGMC and EPA are legally empowered to take action against miners who are observed damaging the environment. GGMC Board Member, Tom Dalgety noted that several small miners would be put out of business and that would result in worsening unemployment.
The GGDMA members complained that the minister has been micro-managing the sector and using the GGMC Board as a “rubber-stamp” for his actions. They have also agreed to set up a mobilisation committee to take the required action against Persaud. The GGDMA President said his delegation told Persaud that were concerned that they were not being involved in key decisions like the suspension of the processing of new river claims and the establishment of a mining school. The two sides, he said, agreed to resume quarterly meetings.
Harding told the meeting, which was organised for miners, that the Association felt that it was being ignored by the government and Persaud summoned them to talks only after their concerns were outlined in a paid advertisement in the daily newspapers. The Guyana Women Miners Association also endorsed the need for a no confidence motion. “We are too powerful of an industry to take this crap. I agree with this man. Let us call a no confidence motion and say ‘hear we can’t wuk with this minister. We ain’t tekkin it.” She said the nine-member commitee would be a waste of time.
Among their concerns is the scrapping of automatic renewal of prospecting licenses without showing cause and a delay in providing mining blocks alternative to those in Amerindian communities. Harding said that in some instances the blocks are already “mined out.”
The GGDMA President lamented that the lines of responsibility appeared blurred among the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Secretary and the Board of the GGMC. He was supported by GGDMA Executive Secretary, Tony Shields who quipped that “I know most of you who didn’t like Sam Hinds are now hoping that he never had left. The fact is that we have a minister, who by character micro-manages and it has nothing to do with mining.”
Shields suggested that the Board and Commissioner are toothless because Persaud has been intimately involved in decision-making.