Gov’t orders investigation into reports of river degradation from gold mining at Puruni and Mazaruni


The Ministry of Natural Resources has ordered a team to visit the Puruni and Mazaruni areas to investigate claims of pollution in the area.

According to the Ministry, a report compiled by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) suggested that there is river degradation from gold mining at the two locations.

The team comprising officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Ministry’s Compliance Division will be dispatched to the areas in a matter of days “with a view to ascertaining the severity of the impact and the accuracy of the reports and putting in place urgent corrective measures,” the Ministry said.

According to the GHRA, “Guyanese gold-mining effluent in the Cuyuni, added to that coming from Venezuela, spews poisoned yellow effluent into the Essequibo at Bartica in such volume as to discolour large stretches of  this ‘mighty’ river’s Western shores.”

The body outlined a number of areas where the degradation of land and pollution of waterways have led to much discomfort for residents. It called for a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) with the aim of ensuring that people can live and work in healthy and protect waterways, lands, wild-life and all other forms of life now under threat.

Referring to the Governing bodies for the natural resources and environment sector, the GHRA said “political ambivalence coupled with indifference from the technical agencies responsible for administration of Guyana’s rivers explain why this problem continues unabated.”

As part of its 2017 programme, the Ministry said it has made the issue of compliance in all natural resources operations a high priority, as its Compliance Division, created in 2016, is now being staffed.

This notwithstanding, the Compliance Division has already been integral in a number of recent compliance enforcement campaigns in collaboration with the GGMC which have resulted in the shutting down of a number of mining operations, including river mining, due to environmental infringements.

The Minister has also tasked the Compliance Division of the Ministry to work with other relevant stakeholders and agencies on a rapid assessment of the situation in order to formulate long-term remedial policy adjustments.

At the inception meeting of the new Board of Directors of the GGMC on Thursday April 13, 2017, Minister of Natural Resources Honourable Raphael G.C. Trotman M.P., charged the members of the Board to focus on Environmental Management with sensitisation in the first instance and more proactive initiatives for monitoring of water quality.

The Ministry says it is appreciative of the vigilance of agencies such as the GHRA and commits to holding environmental stewardship in high regard as outlined in the Ministry’s Mission Statement: ‘To develop, implement and oversee policies for the responsible exploration, development and utilisation of natural resources whilst ensuring the protection and conservation of the environment and advancing the green economy.’

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