Chinese Landing controversy: GGDMA calls for probe into years of illegalities, tax evasion

Chinese Landing, Region One

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) is calling for investigations to be launched into years of unauthorised mining and other illegalities including tax evasion at Chinese Landing, Region One (Barima-Waini).

The Chinese Landing issue stemmed from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) granting a mining permit, sometime in the 1990s, to a miner/company to operate within the boundaries of the village’s titled land. However, the Indigenous community has been up in arms over this approval, which they said did not have the consent of the Village Council.

But when the GGMC had taken steps to issue a Cease Work Order (CWO) to the miner/company, the case had been taken to the High Court, which has ruled in favour of the miner/company. The High Court decision was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeal. However, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) reversed this in 2017.

Chinese Landing, through lobbying bodies, subsequently moved internationally to seek human rights intervention.

Consequently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently issued Resolution 41/2023, through which it granted precautionary measures in favour of members of the Indigenous Carib Community of Chinese Landing, who it said are currently at “serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their human rights”.

But in a statement, the GGDMA reminded that the CCJ is Guyana’s highest court.

“The Caribbean Court of Justice is in fact the highest court in Guyana and final arbitrator in legal matters, yet its decisions are being skirted and loopholed… The Association calls for the decision of Guyana’s highest court, the Caribbean Court of Justice, to be respected. Anything else would-be lawlessness,” the Association said.

According to the GGDMA, the mining permit holder has been unlawfully deprived of his right to earn a livelihood while illegality ran amuck on the lands for more than 12 years. It noted that the GGMC has failed to do its job resulting in environmental damage.

“…unregulated mining resulting in the current condition of Chinese landing is a direct result of this negligence/incompetence. The GGDMA calls for an immediate stop to the harassment of legal miners and for a full commitment from the regulatory agencies administering the mining sector to adhere to Guyana’s highest court. The legal property holder must be allowed to pursue his constitutional right to earn a living and not be vilified, he has legally fought long and hard for this right,” the Association stated.

Following the issuance of the IACHR Resolution, the Guyana Government promised to work with the Chinese Landing residents and indicated that a team would soon be sent into the community to meet with them.

While it welcomed the Government’s fact-finding mission and looks forward to the illumination of the truth, the GGDMA is of the view, however, that Government’s action on this matter is a watershed moment in the mining history of Guyana. The Association contended that if the rights of those who shout the loudest triumph over the truth, then the entire industry will develop disrespect for the law and just practice shouting.

“The GGDMA is aware of the impact the actions in this matter may have on other areas bordering Amerindian lands… As expected, the [Chinese Landing] Village Council has stated that it does not approve of the Government’s fact-finding mission, they are in fact quite unhappy with any fact-finding mission, they have one position, deprive the legal mine holder of his rights and give it to them to use without regulation or oversight. Why? Any fact-finding mission will find out the truth, not just Nancy stories.”

“The facts of the matter are that these are not the barefoot teary-eyed actors who appear before the Government commission, international lobbying bodies and the numerous political parasites. These are in fact the millionaires who evade taxes, royalties, legal and environmental oversight. These are illegal operators who live in multi-million-dollar houses built from illegitimate proceeds. These are not the poor starving villagers the lobbying groups make them out to be, they are well-armed, well-funded and fully equipped to strip bare the land without oversight. What they are asking for is not for protection, but rather a carte blanche to rob Guyana,” the mining representation body argued.

According to the Association, the false narrative of presenting certain Amerindian communities, such as the group residing at Chinese Landing, as the guardians of the land is myopic. It added that a fact-finding mission will expose exactly who has been illegally mining these lands for the last 12-plus years.

“To this end, the GGDMA is calling on the Government to involve the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in this fact-finding mission and to investigate the last 12 years of illegalities perpetrated at Chinese Landing. Can the agitators and leaders in this community crying wolf and living in massive homes justify the source of their wealth via a proper paper trail? Let us find out the truth behind the fake stories.”

“Miners invest millions of dollars, comply with hundreds of regulations, are penalised at every turn, pay more than their share of royalties and taxes, employ thousands and carry Guyana’s economy forward. The GGDMA demands fair treatment for miners. All Guyanese are equal, we stand with our mining brothers, we stand for the rule of law and not for false narratives propaganda endorsed by both international and local actors,” the Association contended.