According to Mr Anatram Balram, General Manager (ag) of the Guyana Gold Board, “It is the policy of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and all relevant agencies to report accurate and responsible information for public consumption” (‘The Minister of Natural Resources will only make pronouncements…‘ SN, January 9).
However, the Gold Board has submitted little of substance in connection with licensing and gold exporting, and readers are expected to accept Mr Balram’s bland statements that, “The Guyana Gold Board has not issued any licence or given any permission to any individual(s) or businesses to export gold to Curaçao in 2012”; and that they have “not received any reports of any lost or missing gold output from any of the local licensed gold dealers/exporters.”
The Gold Board then went on to take shelter under a smokescreen: “It would be reckless and irresponsible for the Minister or any agency to make any announcement on the basis of rumour and speculation”; and the “…Guyana Gold Board will not use information which is erratic in its decisions on this matter and which can adversely impact the local gold industry.”
Illegal gold production and smuggling are not ‘rumour’ and ‘speculation,’ and it continues to remain a major problem facing the country which requires urgent attention. But the government and its agencies continue to show a lack of concern about the issue. The Gold Board should be a provider of information to meet the need for public transparency and accountability. To claim it will not use “erratic” information is a red herring in an attempt to evade the real issues.
How long will the Guyana government continue to avoid the problem? “In 2011, Guyana registered less than 6,000 kilos of gold from their mines, considerably less than the nearly 19,000 kilos registered in Suriname over the same period. The Guyanese authorities believe that they see only one-third of their actual gold production due to smuggling” (SN, July 17, 2012).
The people continue to suffer enormously due to undeclared gold production in the country and this does in addition cause much loss in revenue. The recent Curaçao gold heist should have triggered the red alert and set alarm bells ringing for the agencies to step up security measures and to close up all the loopholes to smuggling.
The discrepancies between declared and undeclared gold production are far too wide to allow for smug complacency. At this time the public is still awaiting the outcome on whether there have been any meaningful investigations.
Then there is the continued use of mercury in gold extraction and the risk of mercury pollution and contamination. When will the authorities let the public know how much elemental mercury is being imported annually into the country and, what steps are being taken in relation to the control, use and, prevention of the risk of mercury poisoning to the country’s water resources.
The US has now taken steps to ban mercury exports to Guyana. The Guyana government should now inform the public of what it is doing about not leaving them exposed to the risk of mercury poisoning.