Mazaruni Toshaus say mining damaging the environment By Jaime Hall
Guyana Chronicle
August 23, 2004

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AMERINDIAN community leaders in the upper Mazaruni say they are not convinced that the Government's plan to encourage more mining there will bring them sustainable benefits. Rather, they opine that more mining will do further damage to the environment (the forest) they depend on for a living.

And this is due mainly because the authorities - the Amerindian Affairs Ministry and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) - do not consult enough with the local people there on key environmental and land rights issues before making decisions, village leaders have said.

Toshaus (Village Captains) of the Upper Mazaruni sub-regions during a media conference at Kamarang/Warawatta on Friday last facilitated by the Amerindian People's Association (APA), said Government's plans to reopen an area for mining between Philipai and Paruima is a decision Amerindians there are opposing.

They said they have major concerns about pollution from mining and interference with aquatic and other life forms and these do not appear to be well represented by the Amerindian Affairs Ministry.

A statement read by Toshau Anderson Hastings during conference said recent media reports which suggested that Amerindians there are comfortable with most of Government and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) proposals to address Amerindian land rights and other concerns were untrue.

Hastings said Toshaus and other Amerindian people in the Upper Mazaruni are at a great disadvantage because they cannot easily access the media to highlight their concerns so the public can have an accurate picture of matters affecting them. "This makes us sometimes have to 'swallow decisions' imposed by the authorities, but we won't sit idly by and allow this to continue... our rights are being trampled upon," Hastings said.

The Toshaus rejected a report on an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of River Dredging Operations in the Upper Mazaruni State Reserve done for the Government by Brazilian consulting Geologist Leandro Pires.

Hastings pointed out that a section of the report dealing with the impact on aquatic life by proposed mining in the areas is suggesting that "the quantity and biodiversity of aquatic biota in the State Mining Reserve have been depleting due to intense fishing by residents of the Amerindian communities there.

Water from the Mazaruni River is used by Amerindians living alongside it for domestic purposes. And during the dry seasons when the river becomes silted, residents complain of skin infection, diarrhea and vomiting, among other problems.

One Amerindian woman at Koroba village said she can no longer fish because a dredge operating nearby contaminates the waterway with waste oil.

The village leaders said they have attempted to discuss these and other matters with the authorities at different forums.