GHRA welcomes Govt’s response to river pollution

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THE Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) said the decision by the Natural Resources Ministry to conduct a rapid assessment of the damage caused by gold mining in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni District is a welcome one.
Following concerns raised by the GHRA, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman instructed a team comprising officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the ministry’s Compliance Division, to conduct an investigation in the affected areas in Puruni and Mazaruni, with a view to ascertain the accuracy of the reports.
Once found to be true, corrective measures will be put in place. According to the GHRA, well-placed sources have pointed out that the tributaries to major rivers, not so visible from the air, are in worse shape than the rivers themselves.
“The response to this decision reveals the scale of the odds facing even the most basic initiatives to enhance environmental protection in an industry which according to press reports, loses a minimum of USD240 million per annum in illegal gold exports,” the GHRA stated.
“This time around the stakes are higher, because not only environmental advocates, but the average Guyanese citizen for whom our rivers were a source of pride, are more aware of the economic and environmental costs involved. Since 2012 scientific evidence generated by the REDD+ programme has demonstrated not only that mining is destroying waterways, but is also the main contributor to forest degradation as a whole. Not just interior communities, but many more Guyanese will be at risk if the authorities do not move vigorously against the irrevocable destruction of fresh-water resources on which the society as a whole depend,” it added.
The association emphasised that money cannot and should not be the only factor determining where gold-mining takes place.
It stressed too that the mining sector in particular needs to demonstrate much greater purposefulness with respect to Guyana’s natural assets, positing that the recent announcement of new licences granted in the Marudi, Madhia and Region One mining districts provided an opportunity to reinforce obligations to environmental restoration, non-use of mercury and other standards which should be non-negotiable.
“Placing the mining industry on a modern, equitable and efficient basis and pursing these goals within the national interest is a task for which many human energies and resources need to be mobilised. The responsibility of the State is to create equitable relations between all citizens, not to pander [to] or privilege destructive elements. The GHRA is also confident that the bulk of the mining industry will be in agreement with such a goal.”
To this end, the GHRA is calling for an inclusive national initiative to develop a more fundamental response to protection of fresh-water resources and reiterates its earlier call for an effective ban on all river-related mining.