Feasibility studies carried out by the Vanessa Mining Company on a concession in the Marudi Mountain area are complete. But Amerindian village leaders of Region Nine are planning to meet with the Canada-based company to discuss the impact a mining operation would have on residents.
Terrence Boston, the regional information officer, said through a release last week that the meetings with Vanessa officials were aimed at reviewing the company's operations in the region now that a five-year geological reconnaissance survey of the Rupununi's likely hot spots for mineral deposits was nearing completion. They would meet residents on March 20 and 27 at St Ignatius Village near Lethem.
"In June 1999, the Vanessa Mining Company of Vancouver Canada met Amerindian leaders of Region Nine and their representative organisations at Lethem for a consultation meeting... The views of the village captains at the time were that since the Vanessa Mining Company was likely to acquire a mining licence at the end of its surveys in Region Nine, detailed information was needed as regards Vanessa's plans."
Boston said among the concerns raised at the time by the local village leaders and their representative organisations was how Vanessa's interest would affect the settlement of the Amerindian land issue, and the environmental impact Vanessa's operations might have on Amerindian communities as well as whether there would be any benefits to the local communities arising out of the operations.
According to the release, Vanessa officials had explained then that the company did not acquire title to lands in Region Nine, but rather, a privilege from the government of Guyana to conduct exploratory, geological and geophysical surveys in the Rupununi and that Amerindian lands, clearly defined and demarcated on the map of the region, were excluded from Vanessa's activities.
"And on the issue of the environment, the meeting was informed that if the Vanessa Mining Company were to go into mining operations after the survey was completed, the company will be required to submit to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency a plan and an environmental impact assessment to determine what impacts this project will have on the local communities. The assessment further allows for residents of local communities to be involved and consulted... The Vanessa officials also said that once the company decided to go into mining, local residents will be employed," Boston said.
The Information Officer said at the end of that meeting, it was recommended that a committee with mining and logging companies, that may wish to conduct operations in Region Nine, be established to represent the interest of the Rupununi. It was suggested then that the body should be made up of three representatives from the Touchaus Council of Region Nine, and one representative each from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, the Regional Democratic Council of Region Nine, the Amerindian People's Association, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commission of Lands and Surveys and the Forestry Commission.
Boston said the committee was established and met at Lethem on several occasions.
"At the moment, Vanessa which is occupying a section of the Marudi Mountain area has promised to work along with the wishes of local communities in Region Nine, once the wishes are within the law and fairly arrived at between the people and the government of Guyana," the release stated.
The current study is considered by the Vanessa Mining Company as a first phase feasibility study where at the end, the company would have enough information to determine whether deposits discovered are worthy of being mined.
Just recently, there were a number of complaints from persons in the Marudi Mountain area about being evicted from the concession Vanessa Mining is exploring. However, officials from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission subsequently said that those persons complaining about being evicted from the concession were mining there illegally.