…even as miners threaten showdown with RomanexSmall miners in Rupununi, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) are threatening a showdown with the Canadian company Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd if the Government does not intervene and come up with a viable solution to the ongoing dispute over mining in the Marudi Mountain.However, despite these threats and pleas, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that the issue remained a sectoral one and would be dealt with by the Natural Resources Ministry.Flashback: Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman with the miners during an outreach“Marudi has been in the news for many years. (Natural Resources) Minister (Raphael) Trotman has made some clear statements on the Marudi issue, but I can’t say that it is something that has engaged the level of Central Government as of right now. It is still a sectoral issue within the Ministry of Natural Resources; at this point in time, the statement made by Minister Trotman will be the statements the Government will support,” Harmon said in an invited comment.In a letter to the press, Rupununi Mining Association President Marlon Johnson outlined that mining activities in Marudi Mountain were at a standstill affecting thousands of people. He explained that Romanex had acquired the rights for the concession for decades now, but has not started any mining. Since the apparent abandonment, the small miners in the area started working two mountains that contain gold and that gold is found in the rocks, which means that it has to be processed with crushers.He added that there were currently 70 crushers working, each employing a minimum of five persons. Johnson, in his letter, stated that over two years now, they have been waiting to have the issue addressed with promises from both Minister Trotman and President David Granger.He related that there were several persons who have had their properties sized by the banks because they were unable to pay their loans.“The way I see this situation is that we are at a breaking point now, and everyone is getting desperate. There are talks of rioting against the company in order to recommence working,” he stated.“Romanex owners are calling the small miners ‘savages’ and ‘hungry belly’ and other names to that effect; and as I have mentioned before, these people have really been stretched out, and they are at breaking point now. The miners have decided that if they cannot get the appropriate approval from the Government by the end of the new week, they will go ahead and start back working with or without approval!” he further stated.In April of 2016, Minister Trotman initiated a mediation process among the Amerindian villages of Aishalton, Awariwaunau, Karaudanawa, Achiwuib, Shulinab, Maruranau, Shea and Potarinau; miners and Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd.Following the mediation, an agreement outlining solutions to the dispute was signed by the overseas mining company, Toshaos of the Amerindian villages, the Rupununi Miners Association and the Guyana Women Miners Organisation. One of the agreed terms of this agreement is that the company, on commencement of exploration and mining, would accommodate miners seeking to mine in the area, provided that they abide by the rules of the company and the laws of Guyana, including the non-use of mercury in their recovery.In September 2016, Trotman formally ordered the reactivation of the mining licence of Romanex Guyana Exploration Ltd, thus paving the way for that company to undertake exploration and mining activities in the Marudi Mountain area.Since July 2016, the residents have been complaining of a breach in the agreement. The concerns were raised by residents with Minister within the Natural Resources Ministry, Simona Broomes during an outreach to the South Rupununi. Broomes had met with 200 residents and said that the residents informed her that the situation had worsened since they signed an agreement to resolve the issue with Romanex.Further, the residents indicated that aside from the breach in the agreement, there have been increased illicit activities such as trafficking in persons and drugs. Since then, the Government is yet to take any corrective step to remedy the situation.The residents say that they are being forced to close down their shops and other businesses since there are little business opportunities for them.They are reiterating their calls to have the issue addressed. Repeated efforts to contact both Natural Resources Ministers proved futile.