Gold board rejects ‘criminalizing’ charge by miners

-says ensuring compliance with law

The Guyana Gold Board (GGB) has rejected a statement by the miners association that the GGB’s ongoing crackdown on dealers and miners over gold declarations is an attempt to criminalize the mining industry.

“The GGB has been mandated by the Board of Directors and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to ensure full stakeholders collaboration in fulfilling its obligations for the betterment of the gold trading sector and the wider mining community. The GGB reiterates the recognition of miners, dealers and other stakeholder(s) of the gold sector to the national economy and denounces any effort to impute motives that these ongoing examinations are a matter of criminalization,” the GGB said in a statement sent via the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

On Tuesday, incensed at what it said were attempts by government officials to criminalize the entire mining industry over the 20% drop in gold declarations, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) summoned an emergency meeting for June 26th to address the way forward. In a statement, the GGDMA also pilloried the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment over the resuscitation of an “archaic” law which it says threatens miners and other stakeholders with jail terms of up to five years for failing to sell gold within a specified period. Sources say this law is the Gold Board Act of 1981 which had contained stringent provisions meant to stamp out smuggling and illicit foreign currency transactions during the economic decline of the 1980s. Application of the Act led to searches of homes for gold. This Act and its repercussions are what miners are now very concerned about.

Over the last month, concerns have grown over the slide in gold declarations as the precious metal has been a driver of the economy over the last five years and a pivotal source of foreign exchange. Government officials in recent weeks have sounded an alarm at the situation and President Donald Ramotar and other officials have said that miners are hoarding gold. The GGB has also started a campaign aimed at gold dealers and miners.

However, miners and industry insiders have argued that the lower declaration is a result of a drop in production and other factors such as mined out lands.

In its statement on Tuesday following the GGDMA’s, the GGB said that it has noted the accusations made by the association surrounding the Board’s current ongoing outreach activities. The GGB stressed that the outreach follows representation by the GGDMA and other stakeholders for the need to ensure that the GGB Act and other related legal provisions are complied with by those involved in the gold trading and the wider mining sectors.

The statement recalled that at a June 4 meeting with stakeholders of the gold mining sector, the GGDMA emphasized that there must be more monitoring and enforcement of the mining regulations by both the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and GGB. In addition, the executive members of the GGDMA, including the President of the Association stated that the GGB must undertake more monitoring of all stakeholders of the gold mining sector, which is in accordance with the Guyana Gold Board Act of 1981, the statement noted. It added that the GGDMA itself had emphatically made the call for the mining industry to improve their level of declarations.

“The activities being carried out by the GGB includes the verification of all licensed gold dealers for 2014 and the details of the records by dealers corresponding to the GGB records. Moreover, all licensed dealers are subject to

conditions which state that (a) for each dealer, the Board shall undertake periodic reconciliation between purchases made, holdings, and sales to the Board and (b) every dealer shall permit a duly authorized officer to enter the premises of the authorized dealer at reasonable times to inspect records. These activities are being done in accordance of the GGB Act which has never been questioned as to its relevance in governing the modern gold mining sector,” the statement asserted. The GGDMA had denied that miners were hoarding gold and said production had dropped. “The GGDMA believes that the real problem lies in reduced production for the first half of 2014. As a result the GGDMA has commissioned a study to investigate the reasons for lower production figures for the first half of 2014 with an intention to demonstrate that it is a reduction in production rather than deliberate low declarations”, the association said in a statement. It added that the results of this study will be made public once completed   and should demonstrate beyond any doubt the real cause for the shortfall in the Government’s budgeted gold figure.

“Production and declaration must go hand in hand and miners cannot declare gold they have not won. Despite an earlier position that the gold declaration was below production miners have now seen documentation that proves contrary and hence the decision to conduct a more in depth study of production figures”, the statement added.

The GGDMA said while it acknowledged government concerns over reduced revenue from gold “the miners cannot be made the “fall guys” for this situation”. The Association said it has stressed to its membership the importance of declarations to the economy and has been actively pressing for increased declarations. “Meetings have been ongoing with the Ministry and it is shocking that these have resulted in the application of threats and coercion; this does not sit well with the industry”, the GGDMA lamented.

While recognizing the importance of mining and gold to the economy, the GGDMA declared that “any attempt to criminalize and bully legitimate mining operations cannot and will not be accepted.”

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