Over the past two years, there has been a significant increase in persons getting involved in and investing in the Gold Mining sector. Some of the new investors are no strangers to the law and have been linked internationally to a number of cases in the drug underworld. Though the Government may be aware of some of the persons and their backgrounds, the Administration appears unclear as to how it should address the issue.
The Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud today announced that a new National Lottery will soon be held for mining districts but there is no mechanism in place that could essentially block those with a criminal past or connections to the drug underworld from getting involved in the process and investing in the sector.
At a Monday midday press conference at his Brickdam office Persaud admitted that the Government is concerned about the issue but does not know how it should address it. Minister Persaud said “because of the nature of mining and what the regulations currently stipulate as to who qualifies and does not qualify, I don’t think that we have any particular legal safeguard that would address that directly”.
The Legal Teams at both the Natural Resources Ministry and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission are said to be paying keen attention to the issue as they try to figure out a way how they could possibly institute sanctions.
The Natural Resources Minister at several times while addressing the issue said he is concerned adding that “we are concerned that we may have actors who may want to get involved in the sector that may not have or enjoy too much of a clean background in this regard but how do we exclude them?”
He said it is not an issue of Ministerial discretion or one that the GGMC could decide who is granted or who is not granted mining concessions but he believes issues could also arise about a person’s Constitutional Right to work and earn a living. Persaud is hopeful that some legislation could be used to tackle the issue but there would be the need for that to be addressed from all angles.
Legal Advisor at the Natural Resources Ministry Rosemary Benjamin Noble said the mining laws do not require background checks to be made for persons who may apply for mining concessions. Once the persons qualify within the context of mining activities, they could be granted the concessions she said. Mrs. Benjamin-Noble said even with evidence presented, it is not an area of requirement to carry out background checks but with the concerns of the Government, it is an issue that they intend to address.
A number of persons who have been named in US Court documents as having links to the drug underworld have over the past year shifted many of their activities to the mining communities and have been making multi million dollar investments in the gold mining sector. Some Officials in Law Enforcement have pointed out that the issue is one that cannot be ignored and should be addressed before new mining concessions are handed out.