An abandoned gold mine in the Dorlin region, Guyana, July 12, 2012 – Jerome Vallette AFP

The administrative court of Guyana on Monday canceled a prefectural decree authorizing the company Montagne d'Or to launch alluvial gold mining in French Guiana. This decision does not concern the controversial Gold Mountain project,
a gigantic industrial project of open-pit gold mining which provides for the exploitation of a 2.5 km long mine from 2022, south of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni.

The court ruled on a smaller project, located on the same concession and dealing with the exploitation of alluvial gold, that is to say the gold deposited by the movement of water. This project had been authorized by the prefect of Guyana on December 13, 2017. Since then, the associations Guyane Environnement and Maiouri Nature Guyane have called for its cancellation.

"One and the same project" in the eyes of the court

The court ruled in favor of the associations on two points. First, it considers that the alluvial gold mining operations authorized by the prefect and the large-scale gold mining industrial project, envisaged "in the immediate vicinity" of the first, constitute one and the same project, which involves interventions in the same natural environment.

Therefore, the impact study for alluvial gold mining had to take into account also the other industrial project.

An illegal project "sausage"

On the other hand, the court found that the Dreal, in charge of evaluating the works, did not benefit from "the adequate functional separation so that it can benefit from a real autonomy" compared to the prefect of Guyana, signatory of the decree.

The court's decision was welcomed by the environmental group Guyana Or de question. "The Montagne d'Or company has tried to minimize the impact of its activity," the group wrote in a statement, denouncing an illegal "slicing project". For the company, this cancellation should however remain without consequence. At the end of 2018, the operator had indicated that it had suspended the operation in July because of a lack of profitability.

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