Poor mining regulations exacerbate harm to indigenous communities
• Human Rights report
March 7, 2007
Inadequately controlled by the government, gold mining in Guyana's interior Amazon region has caused severe human rights abuses and devastating environmental damage, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) of Harvard Law School's Human Rights Programme has said.
Its report, “ All that Glitters: Gold Mining in Guyana ” documents the failure of Guyanese mining regulations to prevent this harm to formerly pristine rainforest communities where the indigenous Amerindian population resides.
“Medium and small scale gold mining as currently practised and regulated inflict severe environmental, health, and social damage on the areas and people near mining operations,” said Bonnie Docherty, clinical instructor at the IHRC.
According to the report, laws that are under enforced or favour mining operations have contributed to the threats to the Amerindian way of life.
The IHRC report provides an in-depth study of the impact of small and medium scale gold mining on Amerindian indigenous communities and extensive legal analysis of the regulatory scheme.
The report continues, “ Guyana 's legal system has four flaws that have exacerbated the inherent danger of gold mining. Guyanese law gives priority to subsurface rights over surface rights. The country has yet to implement fully environmental regulations from 2005. Its current regulations are under-enforced; only 11 significantly overworked mining officers are responsible for enforcing mining regulations across the country”.
The report urges the government of Guyana to implement institutional reforms to curb the environmental degradation caused by mining and to protect the rights of the Amerindian community.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for the Government to limit locations where mining operations can take place, to implement stricter mining regulations from 2005, to promote the education of Amerindians and miners regarding safety in handling hazardous materials, and to increase the number of mines officers and level of cooperation with Amerindian communities to identify human rights violations and environmental damage.
It also calls on the international community to use its leverage to help protect the rights of the Guyanese Amerindians.
• The IHRC indicates that its report is based on two field missions to Guyana as well as extensive pre- and post-mission research.