— investigation launched into Bosai’s mining practices
FLOODING and severe erosion at the small mining community of Coomacka in Region 10 is the accumulated result of decades of unregulated bauxite-mining there, which continues to affect some 2000 residents.
A team deployed by government to find out the source of Coomacka’s continuous environmental tragedies, discovered that years of unregulated mining around the community can be deemed responsible for its environmental pollution today.
This is coupled with the fact that Coomacka is in a basin, while all of the mining activities occurred about 15 feet overhead.
Over the past months, Coomacka has been struck by flooding which destroyed the community’s access bridges and roadways.
Also of concern to residents is erosion of the bauxite sediments along with other aggregates being drained from the mined-out areas through their community during heavy rainfall. These end up in the upper Demerara River.
The river is virtually impassable. This has threatened the livelihoods of residents, since they depend on the river as a main source of transportation, as well as for other domestic purposes.
The Regional Democratic Council (RDC), realising that the situation was too great for the region to handle, invited all of the mining and environmental agencies to look into the problem.
The agencies include the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Agriculture, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA), the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). They were given further instructions by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who has responsibility for the CDC and disaster risk reduction.
An investigation into Bosai’s present mining procedures was also launched by the GGMC and junior Minister of Natural Resources, Simoona Broomes, told this publication on Sunday that she is awaiting a report from the investigation to determine the way forward.
“I want to see a copy of the report of that investigation and the recommendation; and when I see that I will be able to in my opinion, give valid guidance,” Broomes said, adding that the ministry will ensure serious monitoring of Bosai’s mining practices as they relate to land reclamation.
“Mining is not only gold and diamonds, it is bauxite, timber, quarrying and all of that and the ministry will be looking at all of those areas as a whole… it is something that the ministry will ensure occurs,” she said.
The junior environment minister said she has a personal interest in the environment when it comes to mining and said examples needs to be set from the top, since a lot is being expected from small miners.
Bosai’s Senior Technical Service Coordinator, Wainright Betune, on Sunday in an invited comment said the situation created at Coomacka Mines was one inherited from previous bauxite companies such as Linmine and Guymine, since those companies did not have an environmental department instituted.
“Linmine and Guymine did not have an environmental department, so what happened is that these huge chemical overburdens were left and they didn’t take reclamation into consideration, so they have deep holes and some huge overburden piles remaining, so during the heavy rainfall when there is erosion, the sediments are transported with the water and go to the river,” Betune said.
The situation plaguing Coomacka has been occurring for decades, but has worsened of late and the community is now facing the consequences, he said.
When asked about Bosai’s current mining practices, Betune said land reclamation is being considered in Bosai’s plans.
“The way the mining is designed, it is taking into consideration reclamation, the overburden is dumped in the mined-out area and compacted and flattened, also reserve some of the organic material which is the top soil, so as to promote growth and whatever vegetation the company or the EPA has decided is suitable for that type of soil,” he said
REMEDYING TOO EXPENSIVE
When quizzed on Bosai’s environmental plans to remedy the situation that he claimed to have been inherited, Betune said it will be a very expensive and unprofitable venture for the bauxite company.
“A lot can be done to rectify the situation, the problem is if it will make any economic sense, for you to fix that problem it is a huge cost and I don’t think it will make any economic sense, because at the end of the whole exercise, there is nothing to benefit from it, to repair it might take more or twice the cost it took to mine, because the price of fuel today is almost three times the price it used to be back in the 70s and 80s or early 90s.”
He concluded that the only steps that can be taken now is to try to alleviate any future recurrence and probably look to see how Linden’s tourism industry can benefit from the mining sites.
HELP FOR COOMACKA
Regional Chairman Renis Morian has revealed that the relief project for Coomacka will cost approximately $400M, which excludes the construction of the bridge that was destroyed.
“They want to use French cascades at various intervals with wood. Once you build the French cascades, at various levels, it will hold back the sand and the sand will remain and the water will flow at a lesser speed and velocity, thus reducing the amount of sand and overburden going into the river,” he said.
Labour for the two projects is expected to be sourced from Coomacka and other surrounding mining communities.
The residents have also mulled replanting and restoring the sites and are encouraging potential residents to construct their houses on higher ground. The dredging of the upper Demerara River is also expected to commence soon.