AFC calls for withdrawal of PGGS in New River area

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By Kurt Campbell

New River[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Alliance for Change (AFC) has issued a call for the ongoing Geological and Geographical Survey that is being conducted in the Rupununi, Mining District No. 6 (New River area) to be halted until the current controversy surrounding the survey is resolved.

Muri Brasil, having expressed interest was granted the Permission for Geological and Geographical Survey (PGSS) through the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to conduct Surveys.

A PGGS is said to be a property exclusive to exploration and does not include any mining and/or profit related activities. However, several sections of the media despite refutes, continue to insist that mining is ongoing in the area.

On Wednesday (December 18) AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan expressed the view that there was no transparency from Government in the project. Ramjattan said it is for this reason that the party has suspicions and accused the subject minister, Robert Persaud of hiding the fact that the PGGS had been granted while under scrutiny in the National Assembly.

He said explanations afterwards have not been forthcoming and supported claims that the Company has close associations with members of the ruling Peoples Progressive Party Civic.

“What we are concerned with is the absence of transparency,” Ramjattan lamented, adding that “this is not the first time this minister has done this.” He called for Minister Persaud to be reprimanded by the Government in this regard.

But prior to these calls and claims by the AFC, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister along with the company had gone to lengths to prove that permission was granted in keeping with the highest level of transparency and that no mining was ongoing in the area.

The Ministry maintains that all documentations are public and notification of the award of the PGSS was made public in the media earlier. More recent, the Ministry pointed out that disclosures were made through various reporting mechanisms as the Ministry shared this information with the Guyana Human Right Association (GHRA) and the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources both of whom recently met the Ministry and its agencies.

Meanwhile, the Environment Minister following the publications of daily articles which he said were misconstrued had taken to his Facebook page to clear up the misconceptions.

The Minister said, “The whipping up of environmental scare about the PGGS reflects either a profound ignorance of the scope of the activity or sheer mischief intended to mislead the public.

“There was no breach of process nor violation of any established legal processes as stated in our laws on the granting of the PGGS. This is not the first PGGS to be granted in Guyana.”

The Environment Minister debunked claims that 2.2 million acres of land was transferred to the company conducting the survey – Muri Brasil Ventures Inc.

On Tuesday (December 17) Muri Brasil, apparently out of frustration also broke its silence on the issue. The company reiteratively explained that exploration activities have not commenced because permission is being awaited for the construction of a small airstrip to facilitate the airborne aspect of the survey, however, other research activities have taken place.

“It is normal for a PGGS to contain a clause granting the permission to the holder the right to apply for a number of prospecting licences. This is not the only Permission which has been granted or which so provides. The reason is simple and not sinister. These kinds of exploration activities cost millions of US dollars which can only be sourced as exploration investments from outside of Guyana. No such investments would be available if the investor is given no assurance that he will be granted prospecting licences,” Muri Brasil explained in its statement.

It further noted, “The investor takes a risk. If he/she is not assured of a potential return, investment capital will dry up and so will Guyana’s mining industry. Constant exploration activities are necessary to drive the mining industry. For a prospecting licence to be granted, a work programme and financial and technical capabilities have to be proved. These are onerous conditions. And a prospecting licence does not necessarily lead to a mining licence because mineral in commercial quantities may not be available.”

When the issue was first revealed, the Natural Resources Minister was accused of lying to the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources that no mining was ongoing in the area.

It was subsequently revealed that the Minister did not lie and was responding to a direct question. In this regard, the Company noted, “The attacks on Minister Persaud have gone through various phases. The first was the accusation that he lied. This did not stick so he was then accused of withholding the facts. That also proved to be unfounded so that the Stabroek News’s editorial of December 16 accuses him of secrecy, a crime which he allegedly shares with the Government. These accusations are unfair and do not stand up to scrutiny.”

Muri Brasil said it hopes that the controversy is not allowed to adversely affect the PGGS granted to the Company. The Company stated that it is apolitical, and has no agenda whatsoever except to invest in Guyana.

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