The Chinese Landing Village Council says that it was not represented at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as businessman Wayne Vieira sought the approval in obtaining mining blocks which cover a major acreage of its land in Tassawini Region One, Barima Waini.
The Council and residents of the village along with Toshaos from neighbouring communities hosted a press conference on Thursday at the Regency Suites calling on the Government to cancel mining licences that were issued to Wayne Vieira who is using same to give mining rights to a large scale mining company, Vangold Mining.
As such, the Council feels this act is a blatant disregard for their rights to their traditional land and more so, is a direct breach of the Amerindian Act which services to protect the right of the country’s indigenous peoples.
“We would like the Government to stop issuing mining licenses to Wayne Vieira. It is unfair for him to be able to conduct mining on our lands and we can’t,” Chinese Landing Toshao Orin Fernandes told the media.
Fernandes explained that the Council had no representation and no involvement in the court case. He said that these matters were raised at the National Toshaos Conference in 2018 and discussions were also held with Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
However, they are still to receive any intervention from those entities.
In 2018 at the NTC, Minister Trotman was quoted as saying “at the end of the day, mining cannot take place without permission of the community and it is the duty of the miner to approach the community for permission and to settle appropriate terms. So that right remains.” Yet, the Government now claims it is removing “illegal miners” the Council argued.
The Council said it received title for those lands in 1976 while Wayne Vieira received mining license almost 20 years later.
He noted that claims are being made that the Council has no title for the land which is a total mistruth.
“We want the Government to respect the fact that we are traditional owners of these lands and resources, also acknowledge that we have title to show our ownership of the lands and we call on them to honour our right to free, prior and informed consent before they issue mining concessions on our traditional lands,” Nikita Miller, a Councillor from the village said.
Sharon Atkinson, Vice Chairman of the Moruca Sub District who stood in support for the Chinese Landing village reiterated calls for the government to execute proper investigation and halt the issuing of mining permits to Vieira.
“Those in Moruca strongly support the Chinese Landing Village and other Amerindian Villages that are also being negatively affected by this issue,” she said.
Atkinson explained that the Chinese Landing Village received title for their land in 1976 and in 1991, it received an absolute grant reaffirming its title recorded in October 1991, but with effect from April 1976.
She said that in 1995, Wayne Vieira purchased prospecting permits to areas of lands on Chinese Landing title through an Auction sale (lottery) by the GGMC without the knowledge of the village and between 1998 and 2001, GGMC converted those prospecting permits to mining permits again without the knowledge of the village, thus violating their right to free, prior and informed consent.
According to Atkinson, in 1998, the village sought an amicable solution on the issue with Vieira via an agreement where he committed to paying a percentage to the village however, by 2004 this agreement ended as Vieira did not honour his obligations and manipulated, coerced and terrorized villagers of Chinese Landing.
Since then, the council has sought intervention of various Government agencies and ministries to stop Vieira from mining on their lands. In 2010, his works were ceased and this was challenged by him at the Caribbean Court of Justice.