Both the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are involved in reclaiming forests and lands which have been ravaged by mining, with the GFC revealing that work in reclaiming forests in Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) is the most advanced.
During a recent end-of-year press conference, GFC acting Commissioner Edward Goberdhan provided an update on the forestry sector. Specifically, he revealed how work has advanced when it comes to reclaiming mined-out land in Guyana’s interior.
“We’ve been targeting three sites in Region Seven, Region One and Region 10. And the Region 10 one is most advanced. It’s reclamation of mined-out areas, areas that would have been degraded over time,” Goberdhan said.
Over the past year, several strides have been made when it comes to the management of the forests. For instance, the National Forest Inventory has been completed this year. It entailed updating forest resource information that is essential for national and concession-level planning, and scientific research and referencing to support the modern outlook of the National Forest Policy and the Low Carbon Development Strategy.
Last December, an agreement was signed between the Guyana Government and the European Union in a bid to give buyers assurance that timber products from Guyana are legal. That agreement would help improve forest governance, further curb illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
The GFC is currently at the stage of implementing this agreement. Among the achievements this year is the completion of a National Standard for Forest Certification, the endorsement process for which is being carried out across agencies.
During the press conference, the work being done by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission in conjunction with the GFC and the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) was also highlighted. GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison revealed that his agency has also been making headway with reclaiming land.
“I wish to bring your attention to our role in the reduction of mercury within the sector. Our role in engaging in land reclamation, in order to promote that experience to any sector that engages in land degradation, we collaborate with GFC and NAREI, with the establishment of nurseries, for example at Yarrowkabra. Those are agencies that can speak to relations with GGMC in a fair-minded manner,” Dennison explained.
While Guyana has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world, the issue of mining and land degradation is one that is closely monitored by the Government. And since Guyana is a signatory to the Minamata Convention that envisions the phased removal of mercury from the mining sector, efforts are being made to do just that.
Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is a highly toxic chemical used in mining to bind gold together. Exposure to mercury fumes affects the nervous and reproductive systems, and damages brain function.
Guyana signed on to the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013 and ratified the convention in 2014. Over the years, the Ministry of Natural Resources has partnered with the WWF and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to draft a National Action Plan (NAP) which would see a phased reduction of the use of mercury in the mining sector to complete elimination by 2027 through the implementation of a phased mercury reduction strategy.
The NAP captures a number of objectives and strategies as outlined in the Minamata Convention. These include mercury-use reduction; increasing the viability of small- and medium-scale mining; management of mercury waste; environmental assessment; contaminated sites; public health aspects, and public information awareness and education.