Miners have scaled down operations – in some cases by as much as 40%, a high-level meeting on lower gold declarations heard yesterday and the government emphasised at the forum that its efforts to enforce the law was not meant to criminalise the industry.
Yesterday’s meeting of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association also saw a commitment for the review of the Guyana Gold Board Act. Also attended by representatives of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and licensed gold dealers, the meeting aimed to bridge a divide that has yawned open over the 20% less gold declarations this year.
Gold has brought in the largest amount of foreign exchange in recent years and has underpinned the economy. The lower declaration has seen the government accusing miners of hoarding gold and the prospectors retorting with the argument that production has been lower for a host of reasons. The miners have scheduled their own meeting for tomorrow on the situation.
Last week the miners were incensed over the dusting off of provisions in the Gold Board Act which could see them facing jail penalties. Yesterday’s meeting sought to assuage their concerns. A press release from the Ministry of Natural Resources said that following a meeting of the same stakeholders earlier this month, It was agreed that there would be an outreach to all dealers and some of their sub-agents. Some entities in the capital that have a GGMC trading permit were also visited.
“It must be emphasized that the primary concern of those activities (was) to ensure that there (was) proper accountability of the records by those licensed to trade gold”, the release said.
It said the meeting yesterday “agreed that the activities were in no manner set out to criminalize miners and no such activities were done during the outreach”. It added that the recent controversial notices published by the GGB are intended to serve as reminders to all relevant persons in the sector.
The release said that there had been speculation of hoarding, smuggling and the use of the gold trading business for other illegal activities. Among those who had said that gold miners were hoarding the metal was President Donald Ramotar.
The statement after yesterday’s meeting said: “…there is no definitive conclusion to any of those claims. The records of the supervisory authorities only indicates that there is a lower level of declaration by the mining industry in 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013. However, the records also showed that there are improved levels of sales by miners to the licenced dealers, especially in the Districts (where) the GGB’s offices are closed.”
The executive members of the GGDMA, according to the release, told the forum that there are reports that there are lower levels of production within the industry. The GGDMA said the cost is still high for some areas of operation, and miners are awaiting incentives to facilitate a hike in production and productivity.
“The GGDMA has taken the position that negotiations with the Government will be on-going and the Association has been following-up with a number of promises which were agreed to; subsequent to the January 6, 2014 meeting with …President Ramotar such as tax relief on importation of 4×4 vehicles, reduction in rentals and poor … hinterland roads. These matters have been handled at the levels of the various Ministries of Government and are now awaiting the approval of the appropriate regulations which would allow for the facilitation of the incentives to the mining sector. However, the GGDMA has noted that whilst some incentives have been granted, we are in the sixth month of year 2014 and are still awaiting the follow through of the majority of the incentives for the general gold mining sector”, the release said.
The release also pointed out that the GGMC has upgraded the infrastructure of the mining districts which has continuously improved the working conditions for all miners.
The GGDMA also advised the meeting that a study among miners on gold production has been launched and the findings will be released as soon as possible.
“The preliminary observations revealed that there have been reductions in fuel sales, drop in sales of equipment and spares (approximately 30%) and miners have scaled down their operations (approximately 40% in some cases)”, the release said.
The GGDMA also contended that a review of the Gold Board Act is necessary and this was agreed at the meeting. A sub-committee will be set up to review the entire Act. Members of that sub-committee will comprise both private and public sector representatives.
The meeting also called for a revision of some of the conditions for the licensing of gold dealers. This matter will be explored further.
The meeting was also told that the first auction of mining land by the GGMC will be done within the next four weeks and the next lottery will be done within eight weeks. Miners have been clamouring for new land, saying that the present areas are mined out.
It was restated at the meeting that the closure of the Bartica sub-office and the subsequent closure of the GGB’s operations in Charity at the end of June 2014, have not impacted on the levels of declarations between 2013 and 2014. The release said that the licenced dealers are still working in Bartica and providing the necessary services to the gold mining sector.
The GGDMA reiterated its call for all gold to be sold to the GGB or licenced dealers and that the licenced dealers must be accountable for the gold they are purchasing.
The issue of crime in the mining industry will be addressed by a meeting to be held with the Guyana Police Force, the release said.
The forum also noted that prices on the world market for gold have increased over the last seven days and there is hope for better sales to the GCB and licenced dealers.