GWMO’s Simona Broomes says… : Time is ripe for meaningful change in the mining industry
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THE unavailability of adequate mines officers and fully equipped mining stations, added to the lack of duty free concessions and a voice on the Guyana Gold Board or the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is severely impeding the work and progress of the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation (GWMO). President of that organisation, Mrs. Simona Broomes, speaking about some of the challenges miners — especially small and medium-scale ones — are currently experiencing, was quite emotional during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, conducted recently.

Broomes has been a miner for some 27 years, and thus, knows from experience precisely what is lacking in the industry, and what can help to improve its fortunes. She believes the “time is now” for effecting certain major changes that could especially benefit small miners, who are mostly the ones suffering while toiling to build the economy.  

According to Broomes, though there exist over 10,000 dredges, 1500 claims, and 6000 mining permits, there are only a mere 77 mines officers, which include environmental officers and those in the fields. There is just one manager of mines, one chief mines officer, and one administrative officer.

As per mines stations available, Broomes pointed out that the industry is much bigger than just Georgetown, meaning that a miner experiencing a difficulty would need to come all the way to the city to find a solution, when he should in fact be able to utilize the services of the station close by.

“If a small miner at Puruni, for example, encounters a problem, or he wants to know if an area is available, or he wants to look at the map of Puruni, he cannot walk into the mines office at Puruni and find out any of it. For these miners to come to Georgetown for every solution to a problem…and these are very simple things that can be addressed in the same area with better technology and technical support,” Broomes said.

These stations ought to have a little boardroom in which the miners can comfortably go and discuss their issues, she noted. Even maps are unavailable in these stations, she lamented.

“The Amerindians at Kamarang sent me a letter asking that if GGMC was going into the area that they walk with maps for them to show them of an area where they live and have an interest in. We’re saying that if there was a station there, and proper technology, then they could simply walk in there and have access to these basic things.

“One talks about putting tracking devices on dredges. I disagree. There are more important things than just a tracking device to know where a dredge is. Medium- and small-scale miners are literally suffering out there.”

On the issue of those sitting on boards, Broomes said that for too long the organisation has been represented by people who have no clue about what is needed in the industry. She feels there are on the boards “selected” persons who simply do not understand the struggles miners face.

“They don’t walk the walk we walk; they don’t talk the talk we talk. When they are going into the fields, they go by helicopters and planes. They are not going down the trails that we go. They are not driving down those valleys and ditches that have us risking our lives out there. They are not going on those tanker tops and drum tops and those coconut bags. They don’t feel our pain. So when they sit down to make a decision, they make a decision from what they know and what they think. And sometimes it is different from the reality out there.

“If the real pain and concern we feel were felt by those in authority, just as how they consider the Amerindians — which I am happy about — they would consider the voice of a woman. Consider the cane workers are male and you have wonderful transportation for them. Nobody cares to know how we as women get into the interior; if something happens to us and we need healthcare. Nothing at all is taken into consideration.”

Broomes said the GWMO is still at the point of begging for security in the interior. “Are we not as important as the businesses on Regent Street? Are we not as important as the cane cutters (and) the rice farmers? Are we not equally important? The only thing we are not equal in is that we are the largest contributor to the economy of this country.”

According to Broomes, the government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE), can ultimately bring out the changes that will prove to be “so meaningful” to the miners. But so far, MNRE Minister Robert Persaud has always made himself available to listen to the concerns of the GWMO, and to have meetings with them. He also makes a “fair call” when helping the organisation to deal with certain issues affecting small-scale miners.

Minister Persaud prefers not to deal with one thing two times, and hence would respond to requests from the organisation. “We are calling on the whole Parliament. Since we launched this organization, we ain’t see no opposition member come out and say anything about these women who are suffering.

“Basic and vital changes in the industry ought to come about. People think that miners got this ‘money tree’ in their backyard, but mining is a hard, hard job. You invest so much without knowing if you will get anything at all in return,” Broomes observed.

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