A former Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission said that while there is no specific policy on the mining of rare earth elements (REE), the GGMC has encouraged persons to look to that area since its demand was growing with the increasing manufacture of electronic consumer items.
Speaking to Stabroek News, William Woolford said that when he commenced his second stint acting as Commissioner of the GGMC in 2006 following the August elections, he encouraged small miners to enter the realm of rare earths.
Interest surrounding rare earth elements increased following the publication of a series of articles focused on Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud and his granting of a Permis-sion for Geological and Geo-physical Survey (PGGS) to Muri Brasil Ventures Inc. (The company has since decided that it will no longer pursue the survey. See story on Page 3)
In his budget speech for 2012, Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh said that rare earth elements present a new opportunity for investment, and with industrial countries actively pursuing alternative sources, Guyana offers new terrain. “To this end, government has invited expressions of interest for two locations, one in southern Guyana and the other in Middle Mazaruni. This is likely to give rise to the development of explor-atory activity in the first instance and subsequently, conditions permitting, ex-traction,” the Minister said in 2012.
Woolford said that there had been some 10 to 12 prospecting licences issued for the exploration of rare earths and even one PGGS signed for exploration in the middle of the country in the Potaro area.
“There was no specific policy for rare earths but it was one of the things that the GGMC encouraged,” said former Commissioner Woolford. “The GGMC encouraged people to look for rare earths since they occur [sometimes] with the mining of gold and diamonds,” he said.
He said that in the late 1970s work was done looking at minerals and he said that columbite-tantalite (coltan) was being mined since the 1950s. While coltan itself is not an REE it is said to be sometimes occurring in places where REEs are found.
He said that in addition to companies, small miners were also exploring for coltan. He said that the small miners brought material to town and it was identified as coltan
It was reported in the local press that at least three companies were in 2012 exploring in Guyana for rare earths. These companies were Prometheus Resources, Pharsalus, and RPM Exploration these had been granted Prospec-ting Licences, according to Minister Persaud.
Pharsalus Inc was at that time reported to be exploring for radioactive minerals and REEs in the North West District of Guyana.
Rare earth elements are said to be so named because they are not found in heavily-concentrated deposits. They are used to build a wide range of computerised products, from cell phones to guided weaponry to green technologies such as windmills and hybrid cars. According to Reuters, China is the world’s dominant rare earths producer and demand is rising for this product.