Currently, most of the mining activities in Guyana involve the extraction of gold, diamond, bauxite and granite. Many of the gold miners are small scale miners called "portknockers" who pan for gold along rivers and creeks, other more established miners have land or water dredges. There were a few large international companies who were present, but with the decline of the value of gold, their presence in this sector have declined. There are also diamond miners who operate on varying scales. Bauxite is also extracted on a fairly large scale involving large sections of land, but this too has declined in the past 30 years. Quarrying is also done on varying scales and involves white sand extraction as well as stone.
1.1 The issues associated with mining
Mining has important economic benefits as it provides jobs for many Guyanese. It is also a means of attracting investment and foreign exchange.
Mining however, involves certain methods of extraction that will inadvertently have negative impacts on the natural environment. Often, vegetation is stripped from the land in order to access the soil. The top layers of the soil are then stripped to allow the miners to get to whatever mineral they are extracting. This method is common in many mining activities.
The clearance of the vegetation alone results in significant damage and can, among other things, contribute to species loss and erosion which can in turn cause heavy siltation of the waterways affecting aquatic life and blocking downstream channels.
In addition to effects of land clearing, chemicals used to process metals can toxic, i.e. cyanide and mercury the most commonly used in gold, and can contaminate both the soil and water systems. There is also the issue of fuel and machine oils contaminating the soil and water as well. There has often been reports from local inhabitants that the use of creek or river water resulting in internal and external ailments.
1.1.2 Local Communities
The impact on the local and indigenous communities
involve social issues such as sexually transmitted diseases and sexual
harassment suffered by the local women, the latter is an issue that still
needs more attention by authorities. The local people are also affected
by issues of land use conflict and in more remote areas an impact on local
culture and lifestyle.