Bosai Minerals Group Co. Ltd., founded in 1994 and based in Chongqing province, China, has several businesses, including the distribution of coal, as well as other minerals and ore. This Chinese corporation is also involved in a big controversy in Guyana with residents of the mining town of Matthews Ridge, Region One (Barima-Waini administrative region), a 20,339-square-kilometer area that Venezuela claims as part of a territory it calls Guayana Esequiba.
Guyanese Manganese Inc. (GMI), a subsidiary of Bosai Minerals Group, came under pressure to address issues related to massive flooding caused by the release of a torrent of water on September 16, apparently after a reservoir belonging to the Chinese company collapsed. The flooding also caused the contamination of the domestic water supply in Matthews Ridge, according to Guyanese news site The World News.
A community isolated
According to the same article, GMI assessed the situation and allegedly restricted residents’ access to affected areas, barring them from taking pictures and capturing footage of the incident. The collapsed reservoir washed away about 20 feet of the public road, isolating the community and flooding several farms and homes that were in its way, according to the Guyanese government.
One week after the incident, Guyana Regional Chairman of Region One Brentnol Ashley said that a compromised drainage system, belonging to GMI, is suspected to be the primary cause of the flash flooding in Matthews Ridge. “The reservoir has three pipes underground that are used for draining the water out, but it appears as though those pipes were compromised and undermined, and that resulted in the flooding,” he said. Ashley also told Guyanese daily Stabroek News that it appeared that the company did not change drainage pipes that were laid years ago, noting that the integrity of the pipes is believed to have been compromised by the volume of water in the reservoir. “They will have to do some remedial works to assist the community and decide how they are going to address the issues of the families that are affected,” Ashley added.
A long history of issues
The community of Matthews Ridge has a long history with manganese mining that dates back to the 1960s, but it was only after 2016, when Chinese-owned GMI obtained the rights to operate in Guyana, that problems between the company and the local community took on dramatic proportions.
Guyana has substantial manganese deposits and it is estimated that roughly 26 million tons of the mineral are at the Matthews Ridge site alone. In 2016, GMI purchased four prospecting licenses from Reunion Manganese Inc., a Canadian company, covering a total area of 45,729 acres, reported The World News, adding that at prevailing prices in the world market, these deposits carried a value of approximately $117 million.
In August 2021, residents of Matthew Ridges took to the streets in protest against GMI, claiming the company had promised between 300 and 500 jobs for local residents, something that never came to fruition, according to locals. Residents of this village of less than 1,000 people say that GMI hired less than 100 local workers at the mine but brought in more than 200 foreign Chinese nationals to work on the site, reported The World News.
For many years, Chinese companies have led infrastructure projects in Guyana, including the construction of roads and bridges, among other initiatives. Chinese companies mostly exploit Guyana’s extraction sectors. According to Guyanese daily, Kaieteur News, Chinese-owned companies like Bosai have been accused in the past of exploitative practices impacting the environment and affecting local communities socio-economic and developmental rights.