State Cashes In On Gold Rush
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) have faced a daunting task in monitoring the gold mining process in the Kelani River although licenses have been issued.
Following The Sunday Leader expose on the gold rush at the Kelani River in Pugoda in the Gampaha District three weeks ago, the GSMB together with the police prohibited gold mining in the Kelani River but issued licenses for the villagers who were interested in mining.
Although around 250 villagers have obtained gold mining licenses at the GSMB mobile service held on Tuesday, questions have now been raised as to how the gold mining process is to be monitored.
According to guidelines given in the precious metal mining license, a 5% royalty has to be paid to the GSMB from the mine output. It further says that the weight of the sand associated gold that could be removed should not be more than 250gm per day and no one is allowed to mine before 9am and after 4pm.
Questions arise as to how the GSMB could implement these regulations. Not even the Director General GSMB Anil Peiris had a proper answer to these questions.
“My institution does not possess sufficient man power to deploy at the Kelani River for scrutiny. So, we would have to seek police assistance in this regard,” Peiris said.
He added however that he has thus far not decided to meet the higher officials in the Police Department to seek their assistance but added that necessary steps have to be taken immediately to address the issue.
On the methodology to charge the 5% royalty from the miners, Peiris said that the miners either have to produce the gold they have unearthed or the sale receipts they get from the buyers.
“The licensees have to produce their sale receipts or in cases if they have not sold the quantity of gold they have unearthed, they have to produce them to the GSMB. Based on that information we could decide how much these licensees have to pay the GSMB as royalty,” said the Director General.
Peiris said that he has to decide either to deploy his own officials or ask for police assistance to make certain that accurate details of sales are given by the miners.
“It would not be easy to get accurate details from these villagers if our officials are not present at the mining site,” added Pieris.
“I have to discuss the issue enforcing the time restrictions with the police and want to request them to deploy police officers to monitor the mining hours and the minable quantity per person,” Peris said.
However, the villagers that queued at the Kumarimulla Mosque to obtain gold mining licenses were up in arms against the GSMB’s move to charge 5% royalty from each licensee.
“We have been given the opportunity to nominate a maximum of four names for the mining process in the license sheet. But we were never told that the 5% royalty is charged, from each nominee in the license. Those who have nominated four names in the license are the real losers and those who have given only one name could survive without paying an additional royalty fee,” said the angry villagers.
They further accused the GSMB for not notifying them as to how they are going to charge this royalty fee from the miners.
“Although we obtained these licenses today, we are not sure whether we will or will not be able to unearth gold from the river bed. In that case we want to know as to how the GSMB is going to charge us? We were told that the 5% royalty would be charged from the licensees believing that the daily gold output of every person is worth Rs. 1,500 which is unfair. Those who are lucky enough could unearth gold and the others would not. Unless there is a mechanism to observe this, the GSMB is trying to put the licensees in trouble,” said Faumy.
Meanwhile H. V. Sanjeewa accused Public Relations and Public Affairs Minister Mervyn Silva for trying to take the credit for GSMB holding a mobile service to help the villagers to obtain gold mining licenses easily.
“When we came here we saw as to how a certain state electronic media institution was interviewing a group of people, whom we do not know, to find out as to who has helped the villagers to obtain these licenses easily. We saw as to how this group was thanking Mervyn Silva for organizing a GSMB mobile service in Pugoda. What a joke is this? He may be an MP from Gampaha district but he has not done anything for the people in Pugoda,” said Sanjeewa.
Meanwhile H. P. Hemalatha said that they have been cheated by the GSMB.
“There were GSMB posters all over the village the last few days claiming that the annual license fee would only be Rs. 2,000 but they never said that they would be charged a 5% royalty from the output.
Neither had they said this before we paid the annual fee. We only saw it when we got the license. They have cheated the villagers,” said Hemalatha.