Marudi Mountains vs Romanex Mining Operations

We share a letter from former APA President, Tony “Chief” James, on the mining situation in the Marudi Mountains. The mountains are a sacred location to the Wapichan peoples and the surrounding environment. Mining has had its negative impacts on the area. Here Mr James illustrates the situation in the Marudi Mountains as of 11 March 2018:

Dear Editor,

The 21 communities who are members of the South Rupununi District Council, a statutory body, are very concerned about the potential implications of mining in the Marudi area.

The Marudi, Kariwaimiintaaua mountain range is sacred to the Wapichan people. One of the reasons it is sacred is that it is a critical watershed that provides fresh water in both directions: towards the south and towards the north. The fresh water in the creeks and rivers is the habitat for numerous water dogs and fish stock, especially the himara, which, among others, the Wapichan and other peoples depend on for food. Other wildlife exists here as well. Within these lands, there are no-go zones which are the habitat of the grandfather spirits of the various ecosystems that hold together all living things within.

This area is already being destroyed, yet apparently, more mining concessions/blocks are being doled out by the Ministry of Natural Resources without the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the Indigenous Wapichan people. The recent mercury survey, carried out by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Aishalton, Karaudarnaua, Para Bara and Shulinab, revealed that the community of Para Bara suffers high levels of mercury, above the safety level. Is this of any concern to the relevant agencies and Ministries?

These yet pristine areas will definitely be destroyed further if mining continues. The flow of polluted water will reach right into the Atlantic Ocean, affecting all the Indigenous villages that exist along Kwitaro, Rewa, Rupununi and the mighty Chiipwao (Essequibo) Rivers, as well all other settlements including the town of Bartica.

To further compound this, Romanex Guyana, through its parent company, is now being funded by a Chinese Company named Zijin Mining Group, one of, if not the largest gold producers in China, to further exploration work. Research on the track record of this company reveals that its environmental and social track is very questionable. So this raises more questions. What are we going to see here? Open air heap leaching? Cyanide? What will happen to the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) currently being conducted by Ground Structures? Now that Zijin is going to be involved, is there going to be another ESIA conducted before work begins? We are aware that Zijin is well financed and we are also aware of it terrible spills in 2010 and the millions of dollars the courts fined the company for the damage it caused. Added to this, we are also aware that the Norwegian Ethics Council barred Zijin from the Norwegian Pension Fund up until to 2017.
All of this has now put a spotlight on Romanex, GGMC, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. When and how will all information be put out publicly, especially to all of the communities that will be affected?

The Constitution tells us in Article 25 that every citizen has a duty to participate in activities to improve the environment; it tells us in Article 36 that the well-being of the nation depends on the preservation of clean air, fertile soils, pure clean water and the right diversity of animals, plants and the ecosystems. The Wapichan People are very concerned that their Human Rights to our way of life as enshrined in Article 149G of the Constitution to an environment that is not harmful to him or herself in article 149J; and to meaningful and effective participation, as well as to free prior and informed consent, are and will continue to be disrespected and violated.
Are we really truly pursuing the concept of a Green Economy?

Thank You.
Tony James. AA
Chief Kokoi.
Wapichan Elder. Indigenous Peoples Rights Advocate.