Unregistered gold miners to come under radar

Some multi-million-dollar mining operations in various parts of the interior are likely to come under official scrutiny early next year as the authorities initiate an audit aimed at identifying and removing unregistered mining operations.

Administrative Coordinator of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) Colin Sparman told Stabroek Business in a telephone briefing that the association will collaborate with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to address the issue of the unregistered mining operations. Sparman said the mining community has endorsed the desirability of the exercise, which is designed “to help regularise the gold mining industry.”

Sparman told Stabroek Business that “what we have at the moment is a situation in which people are investing millions of dollars in equipment and commencing mining without registering their operations with the GGMC.”

Another industry source told Stabroek Business that the authorities are already aware of the locations of some of the unregistered operations and that many of these may be operating with “official knowledge”.

Sparman said the anticipated outcome of the exercise is unregistered operations being required to put their houses in order as a condition for continuing their mining operations.

Meantime, according to the official, while meeting the 2012 gold production target of 400,000 ounces was “good news for the sector,” that should not allow stakeholders to lose sight of the various problems that continue to afflict the industry.

Sparman said that while, in his view, the relationship between the authorities and the miners had improved recently, “It is no secret that failure to provide a vastly improved security presence in the gold-mining regions is a sore point between the miners and the authorities. Security is a major issue in mining communities. In some cases we have virtual wild west situations.”

He said there had been discussions involving the GGDMA that had addressed the issue of utilising resources from the sector to strengthen security in the mining areas of the country. The association has engaged the Guyana Police Force on the issue of the salaries of ranks operating in E and F Division being subsidised with resources from the mining sector, he said, but that there had been no further movement on requests that documented information on the costs associated with this exercise be prepared. The GGDMA, Sparman said, had also raised the issue of logistical and other difficulties arising out of the fact that the headquarters of the E and F Division, which is responsible for interior security, is located in the city, at Eve Leary.

Meanwhile, Sparman said that while it was desirable that the gold mining industry reflect on its accomplishments, it was obvious that nowhere near enough is being done to ensure that mining communities benefit from the returns from the sector. “Apart from the security of the miners, there is the more important question of the quality of life of the people who live in gold-mining communities. There are issues of infrastructure, medical care and education. Anyone can see that there are gaps here,” Sparman said.

Asked to comment on the view expressed in other sectors that mining is creating a crisis in some employment categories by absorbing the vast majority of certain skills, Sparman said the concern was a valid one but it was “an issue of economic power”. He explained that an excavator operator in the mining sector could earn up to $1 million a month while cooks could earn a minimum of $200,000. “Punters, unskilled persons who scavenge tailings waste left behind by bigger operators could earn as much as $15,000 per day. I doubt that any other industry could offer that,” he posited.

But he added that despite the criticisms being levelled at the gold mining industry, it was serving as a “springboard for persons to accumulate savings and in some cases build new properties and renovate existing ones.”

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