Chinese Landing villagers claim ‘sell out’ of land to miner

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By Isanella Patoir

Longstanding issues with the Amerindian community – Chinese Landing in Region One – and a private miner have surfaced again.

The Toshao for Chinese Landing, Orin Fernandes says that his people are scared for their future after they heard that the miner will yet again be mining in the community.

Three Toshaos along with members from their councils from Region One gathered at the Regency Hotel on Hadfield Street Georgetown Thursday, to discuss the ongoing enforcement operation by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Police Force which involves removing illegal miners from the mining properties of Wayne Vieira.

Orin Fernandes, Toshao for Chinese Landing is claiming that the Government is not adequately protecting the rights of the Indigenous peoples by allowing Mr Vieira to have mining licenses to operate in the community again.

“We wish to point out that the Chinese Landing community are traditional and legal owners of our lands. We have continued to practice our ways of farming and hunting,” Fernandes said.

However, this was not enough to sustain their livelihood, the Toshao said, noting that mining provides support for their health and education systems.

“Our artisanal form of mining could not sustain us anymore and [we] have since morphed into one that provides employment and livelihoods to many residents in the Moruca sub-district and not only for Chinese Landing,” the Toshao said.

He said that Mr Vieira’s mining lands also cover the majority of the community’s titled lands, further extending over their farmlands and existing farms.

The village is claiming that Mr Vieira did not comply with the Amerindian Act and broke promises to the community during his years of mining.

They said since 1998 they tried to have an amicable solution to the exploitation of their resources by Mr Vieira.

Nikita Miller, Secretary for Chinese Landing Toshao Council said, “We are hereby calling on the Government of Guyana to protect the right of not just Chinese Landing but the Indigenous peoples of Guyana. We want the Government to recognize the fact that we are traditional owners of these lands and resources.”

Sharon Atkinson, the Vice Chair for the Moruca Sub-Region Council believes that Mr Vieira’s mining operation will further lead to deforestation and is asking that proper environmental and social impact assessment be conducted.

“If Guyana is claiming that we are going in to keeping the forest standing and we are going green…then why is this major deforestation happening,” Atkinson said.

Heamant Subryan, a villager said that Mr Vieira’s claim to the Tassawini Mining land titles was not legally signed away.

The Toshaos are asking that the Government accept responsibility for selling out their land and work on rectifying the issue with them at the shortest possible time.

Meanwhile, the enforcement team said they held discussions with the Toshao and Councilors of the Village on the purpose of the visit and its intended activities. However, the Toshaos claimed this did not happen.

The Ministry of Natural Resources said about 17 illegal mining is being done Mr.Vieira’s mining land V-4/MP/000.

According to the Ministry, remaining persons had asked for additional time to remove their equipment from the mining land.

The Ministry said it is their responsibility to ensure safe and responsible exploration, development and utilization of Guyana’s natural resources and will continue to investigate and respond to issues of illegal and dangerous mining activities.

In 2010, GGMC issued a Cease Work Order (CWO) against Vieira’s operation, because he was in violation of the Amerindian Act – mining without the community’s permission.

Mr Vieira successfully challenged the decision to issue the CWO in the High Court before Justice Insanally, who determined that the order could only be issued in relation to breaches concerning the Mining Act and not the Amerindian Act.

GGMC then appealed to the Court of Appeal and won, following which Vieira appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The CCJ ruled in favour of Mr Vieira’s rights to the mining concession in 2017.

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