More than 95% of the blocks of mining lands put up for auction last week by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) were snatched up over the four days that the auction lasted with bids reaching into the millions of dollars.
Bids started out at $60,000. Over 950 out of the 1,000 blocks of medium scale properties up for bid were auctioned out as of Thursday. The effort to distribute the mining lands were to improve the diminishing gold declarations and to increase the transparency of land distribution to promote development of the sector, according to the GGMC.
The GGMC is also set to distribute 1000 more blocks via a lottery starting today at four locations simultaneously. The lottery drawing system is set to be hosted in Georgetown at the Girls Guides Pavilion, on Brickdam, at Port Kaituma, Mahdia and Bartica. It will see persons who have applied for blocks of mining lands having their names placed into one bag and randomly pulled by individuals present while the blocks available will be placed in a separate bag and pulled randomly by persons present at the draw.
When Stabroek News spoke to GGMC Commissioner, Rickford Vieira, he said that the commission was preparing for the lottery and thus was unable to tally the revenue generated via the auction. He could not say what the highest bid on any block of land was either.
The GGMC in a statement on Wednesday said that the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has been actively pursuing the early allocation of new mining lands via the process of lottery and auction, which has led to the ongoing lottery and auction being held with each having 1000 blocks of land, 1200 acres in size, that will be allocated; a total of 2000 blocks and 2,400,000 acres.
“One may recall that in past years, the position of the industry was that only selected persons were able to access lands that were cancelled. Given this assertion, the Closed Area Committee was established via regulations to govern the reallocation of cancelled lands,” the GGMC said. The statement added that for the auction and lottery this year, every effort was made to ensure that all stakeholders can have access to lands.
Responding to claims of small miners saying that they are left out of the selection pool when it comes to land distribution, the commission said, it is cognisant of the fact that persons with financial means would be able to bid higher than others. “It would be unfair to state that the auction was geared towards the large miners when every effort was made to ensure that small miners have equal opportunity in accessing land,” the GGMC said.
The statement also disclosed that historically, 100 per cent usage of the facilities was never realised, since not all blocks received via the lottery were applied for. “This clearly indicates that lands are being made available by the Commission, but are not being taken up by small-scale miners.” the statement said.
The statement elucidated the process for land selection saying that that each of the 2000 blocks set for distribution, was numbered and every even-numbered block was placed in the auction and odd-numbered blocks in the lottery. This mechanism, the commission said, ensured that not all blocks with geological information would have been auctioned and assigned to the highest bidder. Therefore, blocks with geological information would be scattered within the auction areas and within the lottery areas, thus giving all persons equal opportunity to access those lands, the GGMC explained.