(GUYANA CHRONICLE) – THE Ministry of Natural Resources has ordered an immediate investigation into the assault on miners by Russian security guards working in the hinterland.
In a statement issued on Monday the ministry said it has noted with deep concern and strong consternation a video circulating on social media which appears to show a confrontation at a mining location between an alleged foreigner and Guyanese miner. “The video clearly shows that the alleged foreigner is armed with a firearm and behaving in an aggressive, hostile and condescending manner towards the man who appears to be a Guyanese national,” the statement read.
It added that the images are disturbing on many levels and raise issues about security, the authority of foreigners to carry arms and conflict resolution in the mining sector. “To this end, the Minister of Natural Resources has instructed the Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Director of the Corps of Wardens to launch an immediate investigation to ascertain the veracity of the video and to solicit the support of the Guyana Police Force in their investigation. A report is expected within 48 hours,” the statement ended.
The Guyana Chronicle reported on Monday that a private Russian security guard is accused of assaulting and pulling his gun on the Guyanese miner during a recent incident at Quart Stone, Cuyuni, Region Seven. In a video seen by this newspaper, the guard demanded documents to prove that the miner has claims to the area and a right of access.
Usually, the police or officials of the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission (GGMC) carry out this function and not a private security guard. The miner was enquiring about claims for Shawn Hopkinson who is one of Guyana’s large-scale miners. He has several claims in the area.
Despite knowing his right, in an effort to maintain the peace, the miner complied and provided documentation but this did not dissuade the armed guard from becoming physical. Even after the documents were shown, the Russian guards followed the miner who went about his business. It was at this point that things escalated and the miner exclaimed, “I don’t have to show you anything cause me ain’t wuking with you bai, listen to what I’m telling you.”
The Guyanese miner was then punched by one of the two Russian guards who were armed with handguns. The guard then pulled out his gun on the miner and at that point the video stopped.
Hopkinson mining company with whom the assaulted man is employed reported the incident to the Police. The Russian guards are also accused of handcuffing a miner to the roof of a shed and beating him. The circumstances surrounding that incident are unclear but miners are calling on the police and Ministry of Natural Resources to investigate these incidents and give them justice.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) in a statement condemning the incident called on the Guyana government to investigate what it described as alleged torture, harassment of Guyanese miners and workers by Russian nationals who own and operate West Bank Demerara Gold Inc, a Russian-owned mining company in Guyana.
In a letter to President David Granger and the Ministers of Legal Affairs, National Security and Natural Resources, acting Police Commissioner, Mr. David Ramnarine, and Chairman of the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission (GGMC), Mr. Stanley Ming, the Institute’s president, Mr. Rickford Burke asserted that the Russians allegedly committed torture and other crimes against humanity as well as other human rights abuses of Guyanese citizens, which the government must not condone.
On April 3, 2018, ranger Ken Edwards and Charles Clarke, employees of Hopkinson Mining Logistics, were executing their normal duties on their employers claim in Quart Stone, near the Quart Stone River in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), when they were intercepted by two expatriate Russian operatives of West Bank Demerara Gold Inc. The Russians attempted to prohibit the Hopkinson workers from entering further on said land.
West Bank Demerara Gold Inc. Is a company which acquired and now operates a mining concession known as Chunnylall Babullal & Ricky Ramnarine (CB&R) Concession. Hopkinson Mining Logistics ostensibly has mining claims within the CB&R concession that predates its acquisition by West Bank Demerara Gold Inc.
The Hopkinson security guard recorded the incident with his cellular phone. The video recording shows a Russian operative who is known in the concession area as ‘Batali,’ demanding documentation and challenging Edwards and Charles’ right to be on their employer’s claim. He subsequently attempted to block their access. ‘Batali’ then punched Edwards in his face. When Edwards attempted to defend himself, Batali punched him a second time, then pulled a gun on the men.
CGID said it has also obtained additional evidence of a separate incident in which the said Russians allegedly handcuffed another mining worker and tied him onto the roof of a structure and tortured him. The worker was reportedly forced to urinate and defecate while hanging from the roof. “These are very serious allegations. CGID is calling on the entire nation to join in condemnation of these despicable atrocities. If substantiated by the Police, these acts constitute crimes against humanity that carry harsh criminal penalties under national and international law,” the release stated.
Additionally, CGID said ‘Batali’ allegedly displayed a Guyana Police Force supernumerary constable precept, an instrument that licenses security guards to carry a firearm. In light of the alleged reckless actions of the Russian operative, CGID is gravely concerned about the issuance and maintenance of a Guyana Police Force precept for “Mr. Batali” to bear arms.
“CGID therefore calls on the Police Commissioner to launch a criminal investigation into the actions of the Russians guards, who should be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if they are found to be criminally culpable. With the establishment of the petroleum industry and an expansion of the mining sector, both of which will attract foreign companies that can potentially mistreat or abuse Guyanese workers, CGID calls on the government of Guyana to establish a human rights commission, with powers of a court, to address and adjudicate human rights violations.”