Guyana’s last frontier breached by road from Brazil – GHRA

Guyana’s last frontier breached by road from Brazil

NOVEMBER 16, 2013 | BY KNEWS |  LETTERS

DEAR EDITOR,

Guyana’s last frontier is being breached by Brazilian mining interests who are constructing a road intended to drive deep into the heart of South Rupununi, eventually reaching the New River Triangle. This development will generate a cascade of economic, social, security, political and environmental problems in an area of Guyana which currently has token governmental infrastructure.

If the governing administration is aware of this reckless initiative, the nation deserves an explanation. However, whether legal or illegal, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling for this venture to be stopped immediately, and those responsible condignly punished to deter like-minded attempts.   

Contributions of gold mining to the national treasury, together with the personal enrichment of a significant slice of the political and economic elite, have rendered gold-mining above the law in Guyana in recent years. The problems generated by gold mining include illegal exports of gold, tax avoidance, social upheaval in indigenous communities, heavy metal pollution of fresh-water sources, uncontrolled de-forestation, bio-diversity devastation, illegal immigration, bribery of police, mining officials and forestry monitors and corruption of indigenous elected leaders.

Villagers of Parabara in the Deep South Rupununi were recently informed that a road connecting the border town of Lumidpau to the Kuyuwini River to the South-East would pass through their village. A mechanized pontoon will then ferry vehicles across the Kuyuwini and the road will continue to the Essequibo River. The road will by-pass immigration and customs located in Lethem, providing more direct access to and from Boa Vista, Brazil.
For the first time, this ecologically pristine area will be exposed to similar irreparable environmental damage caused by mining in Regions 1, 7 and 8.

The Guyana Shield – the ancient mountainous formation straddling Guyana, Venezuela and
Brazil – contains close to one-quarter of the world’s fresh-water resources of which a significant amount is to be found in Guyana. Fresh water, in 20 to 30-years time, is calculated to be as valuable as oil is today. The mining facilitated by the proposed road exposes the upper reaches of the Essequibo to mercury and heavy metal pollution on a scale that will wipe out this asset.

Ecological considerations apart, the notion that such an asset can be squandered at the whim of illegal foreign miners in league with corrupt and compliant officials is shocking. Reports that meetings have been held in indigenous communities by those building the road will be ritually denied. Mining interests will always seek to win over indigenous communities by obtaining a ‘social licence’ for their activities, under the guise of free, prior and informed consent.
While not a legal requirement, such ‘licences’ aim to off-set conflicts with communities in the future.

The national Government, which should be regulating contacts of this nature, is frequently unable to play such a role effectively, because it is captive to private business interests. Subordination of government to mining interests encourages mining companies to enter into arrangements with local communities which appear advantageous to them in the short-term, but store-up a host of problems down the road.

In particular, as communities perceive the profits accruing to companies, their demands for compensation will increase; the influx of miners will re-ignite land disputes and the traffic in prostitution and associated social distress will accelerate. Despite the myth of good fortune surrounding gold, the dominant sentiment in mining districts is largely one of discontent.
Entrusting responsibility for the environment to the Ministry in charge of mining generates severe conflicts of interest. The job of the Minister of mining is to promote mining investments and to grant mining licences and at the same time to protect the environment from the ravages of mining by approving Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

Which interest will dominate in this arrangement is, to employ current jargon, a ‘no brainer’ – environmental concerns will always lose out. There is no countervailing power in the Cabinet to restrain mining interests.

The extent to which dominance of Guyanese commerce and industry by Chinese immigrants is being promoted by the Government of Guyana is of concern to a growing number of Guyanese. The evidence is visible and obvious. A similar process, less visible and therefore less obvious, is also taking place with respect to forestry and mining assets. Immense forestry and mining concessions, including miles of permits for river mining are already in the hands of little known Asian conglomerates from China and India.

Similarly, the new road will become yet another corridor, to add to those already in the Pakaraimas, for the continued colonizing of the Deep South and West Rupununi by hundreds of thousands of itinerant Brazilians, forced North out of Yanomami tribal lands in Brazil over the past decade.

The GHRA’s concern is the complete silence on the part of the Government with respect to justifying these trends which will transform Guyana economically, electorally and ethnically in the long-term and the xenophobic violence that could be fostered in the short-term.
The GHRA recommends that a Parliamentary initiative be undertaken to engage the Brazilian authorities with respect to preventing unauthorized ventures such as this new road.

Executive Committee
Guyana Human Rights Association

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Comments

  • sirenagx  On November 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    This article is cause for a thourgh review of all contracts regarding mining and forestry concessions by parliament. This is a national not a party concerns or lack thereof. It is usually easy for Guyanese to blame one party or the other for everything. But I have always wondered why public officials escape their individual responsibilities to do their respective jobs with what power and resources available. This is especially true of the Police and Army leaders. Surely, some one must have known about this event and not only a PPP Minister? Is the army air capability unable to fly over our borders to keep an eye on what may be happening? Now, we know, it must be stopped immediately until all facts are known and an attempt to discover all such activities immediately.

  • de castro compton  On November 18, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    When I crossed into Brazil some 2 years ago…I did not use this bridge…
    Today I would have to use this bridge as any other crossing would be
    deemed illegal….however am sure that will not stop trafficking of goods and peoples guy/brz/guy….because I was only going to Bon Fin on the Brazil side
    my passport (British European) was not stamped at LETHEM crossing.
    Trafficking and smuggling will always be a problem in cross border
    Situations (Rio grande between usa-mexico an example) and no matter
    how much it is enforced it will not be eradicated/stopped.
    The commonsence solution is to make it easier by allowing the
    free movement of goods/services/peoples…..as per Shengen
    agreement in EUROLAND…..LEGALISE but monitor…..using the information
    to exclude those who cross illegally….there are more illegals in Texas
    than in mexico….many now granted amnesty by Obama s administration.
    It is wiiser to legalise and monitor than to discriminate against economic migrants….that what most “illegals” are…..Texans refer to economic migrants as “aliens” ….who are the “aliens” …Texans who took the habitat of the nomadic
    north american Indians and claimed its titles….
    Will Guyana or Brazil or Venezuela go down that “stupidity” road……hope not !

    Today scientists are discovering that interbreeding of the species usually
    produces more intelegent offsprings. DNA and Gnome technology.
    Wake up Guyana wake up all.

    Kamptan

  • Nell  On November 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Guyana Government needs to stop this happening. God forbid that the destruction of the Amazon forest which has taken place in Brazil should occur in our beautiful forest. Leave Guyana forests alone. We do not need greedy people coming to our land and destroying it. Learn from the mistakes of the past.
    Nell

  • de castro compton  On November 23, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Nell
    I share your sentiments but most of what we see happening is under the umbrella
    of “progress”…..bribery and corruption part and parcel of that…..progress….

    Development should not be encouraged or permitted unless it is monitored
    /regulated and sustainable….if it cannot be policed don’t make it illegal/legal.
    The law is an ass unless it is enforceable or enforced.
    Any policeman on a “peanut” wage will behave like a “monkey”
    accepting a bribe….sweetener.
    If licences are issued “centrally” for the development of an area
    without prior local consent conflict of interest becomes apparent.
    The issue here is simple…
    Should local governance be overruled by central governance ?
    May I humbly suggest that unless both local and central government
    agree no licence for development be issued/granted.
    Not in my backyard….the ultimate cry…
    The decision is political and as such the solution must be political.

    This disagreement will stagnate unless it is carefully thought through by
    all political groups and unanimous agreement reached before laws are made and implemented/enforced.
    Guyana needs the development but it must be “sustainable” ….long term
    as there is no quick fix once the environment is disturbed/destroyed.
    All the north Americans lakes were polluted and are still so 100 years later
    Our oceans are more polluted today than yesteryears
    Climate change are creating unnatural weather behaviour
    Guyana (land of many waters) may soon be land of polluted waters.
    Fresh water will be more value able than “black gold”…
    Guyana s rivers should be protected by laws and bylaws
    which should be enforced with heavy penalties….for breaches.
    This issue will continue to be debated many decades from
    today but we can but hope it is not too little too late…..to save
    our planet.

    Kamptan

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