MAC: Mines and Communities

Guyana's miners launch protest against Norwegian forest deal

Published by MAC on 2010-02-07
Source: Reuters

In December 2009, the Norwegian government offered a quarter of a billion dollars to the government of Guyana, so long as it reined-in the harmful practices of its gold extraction outfits. See:

The proposal has sparked outrage from small- and medium-scale miners.


Guyana's miners launch protest against tree-felling restrictions

The restrictions are part of a $250m carbon deal with Norway aimed at continuing the low carbon development strategy currently being pursued by the country's president


2 February 2010

GEORGETOWN - Hundreds of gold and diamond miners in Guyana's main mining town on Monday protested against restrictions on tree felling proposed by the government as part of a $250 million forest-saving carbon deal with Norway.

The protest in Bartica, located deep in the Guyana jungle some 65 miles (105 km) from the capital Georgetown, was the biggest demonstration yet against a low carbon development strategy by President Bharrat Jagdeo that includes stringent mining regulations as part of its agreement with the Norwegians.

"The protest was unlike anything I have ever seen. Hundreds of people marched down the road and all businesses were closed; hardly any children were in school," said Tarzie Ghanie, owner of the town's only TV station, TSS Channel 5.

In November, Norway pledged to pay Guyana up to $250 million by 2015 to help save the England-sized forests which cover 75 percent of the South American nation's territory.

Monday's protest was led my small and medium sized mining operations. Larger mining companies looking for gold and diamonds in the English speaking country of about 760,000 people include Canada's Guyana Goldfields and Sacre-Coeur Minerals.

Miners are allowed to cut trees in areas they work in. The new regulations would oblige miners to give notice six months in advance of the area they intend to clear trees.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds said timber operators are required to obtain pre-approval from the Guyana Forestry Commission before felling any trees. The same rule is to apply to miners.

Small and medium scale mining companies, which are Guyanese owned and operated, fear the new rules will put them out of business and lead to a collapse of the industry. The government says their fear is misplaced.

"The government would not support policies to regulate mining out of existence," says Dr Roger Luncheon, the government's chief spokesman.

"The interest is to have a balanced, sustainable, exploitation of our natural resources," said Luncheon.

Last year, Guyana had one of its best gold years. Small and medium size miners exceeded projections, declaring 305,178 troy ounces, according to the Guyana Gold Board. This represented a 17.2 percent increase over 2008 figure. The projection was for 257,503 ounces.

The gold board said gold exports for last year amounted to $281.68 million.

Next week, a commission with representative from the government and a miners group is expected to present a report of how to implement the proposed rules. (Reporting by Neil Marks; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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