Amerindian leaders, Vannessa to further discuss Rupununi mining

Guyana Chronicle
March 5, 2003

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AMERINDIAN village leaders in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) will meet Vannessa Mining Company officials on March 20 and 27, at St Ignatius, Rupununi, to review operations of the latter.

The meeting is timed because Vannessa is now nearing completion of a five-year geological and geophysical reconnaissance survey of the best mineral deposits.

Vannessa considers the exercise the first phase of a feasibility study to provide enough data for determining whether mining is feasible.

If the venture proves justifiable, Vannessa would first have to secure an environmental impact assessment of its plans, Regional Information Officer Terrence Boston pointed out.

He said representatives of the Canada-based Vannessa first held talks with the Amerindians of Region Nine in June 1999, at Lethem, also in Rupununi.

That meeting, at the request of the local population, sanctioned a temporary suspension of the permission granted Vannessa to undertake the study until details of its programme were available.

Among the concerns raised by the captains and representative organisations then was how Vannessaís interest will affect the settlement of the Amerindian lands distribution issue, what effect the firmís activities would have on the indigenous communities and the direct benefits to be derived.

Vannessa officials had explained that they did not get titles to lands in Region Nine but a privilege from Government to conduct exploratory, geological and geophysical studies on lands, excluding Amerindian holdings clearly defined and demarcated on the map.

Boston said the Amerindians were also informed that, if Vannessa was to embark on mining, it would be required to submit, to the Geology and Mines Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a blueprint which would indicate, as well, the environmental impact of the project.

The documentation would include involvement and consultation of the residents on the likely effects or benefits to them, knowing what type of technology will be used to reduce pollution problems, too.

Vannessa had pledged to employ some of the resident population if it decided to mine and both sides agreed on the establishment of a committee to represent the interests of Rupununi folks to all mining and logging companies wishing to operate in Region Nine.

Boston said it was agreed that the body comprise three nominees of the Region Nine Touchaus Council, one from Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, one each from the Regional Democratic Council, Amerindian Peoples Association, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, EPA, Commission of Lands and Surveys and Guyana Forestry Commission.

Since its formation, the group met at Lethem on several occasions and Vannessa, which is occupying a section of the Marudi mountain area, has promised to work along, once the wishes of the grouping are within the law, Boston said.

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