Guyana spending $300 million to replant trees in mined out areas this year


Guyana will this year spend about $300 million for land reclamation and reforestation purposes, a venture that promises to help restore swatches of trees on mined out patches in the country’s forests.

This sum is just a small portion of the Ministry of Natural Resources’ $3 billion 2024 budget but according to subject minister Vickram Bharrat, it is a valuable investment.

“It is a very expensive undertaking… but is an investment and not an expense,” Bharrat said on Wednesday as he defended his budgetary allocations.

He explained that mined-out areas must first be filled before trees are planted there.

Additionally, nurseries are set up so that appropriate seedlings can be grown and then translated at the sites. And the ministry doesn’t want to grow fast-growing species so it is investing in trees that will be around for much longer.

The $300 million sum will help fund existing projects and new ventures.

“We are now targeting Mahdia and Matthew’s Ridge where there are significant mined out areas,” Bharrat said.

|Graphic shows the main reasons for deforestation in Guyana for the year 2022 and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as a result. (Source: Guyana REDD+ Monitoring Reporting & Verification System Report for 2022)

Bharrat believes that this investment will help increase Guyana’s forest cover, thereby helping the country trap more carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, and earn more from its carbon credits venture.

In the years ahead, he anticipates that much more money will be needed for land reclamation and reforestation purposes.

Map shows Guyana’s land classes (Source: Guyana REDD+ Monitoring Reporting & Verification System Report for 2022)

Meanwhile, a $400 million sum was also approved for the Natural Resources Ministry to engage in the first phase of a long overdue “mineral mapping” exercise.

This venture will help the government to identify where precious minerals are located in Guyana. There is much interest, Bharrat said, in determining whether there are lithium deposits locally in addition to more gold and diamond finds.

“(Lithium) is a much-sought after element around the world and we know that there are a few countries around South America producing lithium and we believe that it may be here too,” he said.

The $400 million will help the ministry conduct the exercise in three main mining districts: Mazaruni, Puruni and the Northwest District.

But this exercise also serves another purpose, that is in keeping with Guyana’s forest conservation thrust.

Bharrat explained that if the government knows where the minerals are located, it can then advise miners where to operate. What is expected to happen then is that the miners will engage in more targeted mining- which involves clearly trees- instead of indiscriminately cutting down trees in areas where they hope to find precious minerals.

“Mineral mapping will prevent some amount of deforestation.

“… Once we complete the mineral inventory, we can point you where you can find minerals,” he said.

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