Reporting in sections of the media on the implementation of what is being termed syndicates which we understand to mean cooperatives comprising groups of gold miners who will have mining access to traditionally closed areas has been fast and furious. The whole idea, according to Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources Simona Broomes, is to empower small miners who, traditionally have had limited access to mining lands, invariably as tenants to bigger mining landlords under conditions which were deemed to be unfair, even exploitative.
From all appearances the idea has caught on with small miners and mining hopefuls and significantly some of the groups that have banded themselves into syndicates are not from the traditional mining communities but from parts of Berbice, Essequibo and – believe it or not – Albouystown. What this signals – or so it seems – is a move by government to broaden the base of access to the gold mining sector by creating a system that embraces new groups of inexperienced but, one assumes, ambitious men and women who are prepared to brave the rigours of what is likely to be a different kind of challenge, to say the least, in order to improve their circumstances.
Any feasible economic opportunity that embraces a wider cross section of the population and creates worthwhile openings for raising living standards is bound to be welcomed in a country where unemployment remains high, many families still live below the poverty line; and against the backdrop of which President Granger’s ‘good life’ promise remains the subject of energetic social and political discourse. The gold mining sector offers opportunity for gainful employment, though there are certain caveats that cannot be ignored.
It is a relatively high risk, high investment sector, which, of course, means that the syndicates that will be signing up to begin their collective pursuit of gold will have to be materially equipped to do so.
The idea, as explained to this newspaper by Minister Broomes, is that the respective syndicates will comprise individuals with different strengths so that while there will be those financing the mining equipment and the various other aspects of the operations, there will be others, as well, who will be engaged in the various operational and administrative aspects of the overall process. What are essentially privately-run business operations will, of course, have to work out their own internal arrangements for profit-sharing.
As Minister Broomes also makes clear, the obligations of the respective syndicates also extend into discharging their tax and other liabilities due to the state and observing the laws of the land in relation to setting their faces against some transgressions that are known to obtain in the mining sector, not least, human trafficking. Beyond all that, there is the issue of respect for the environment, which, given President Granger’s ‘green economy’ focus will be expected to undergird the whole process.
It should be mentioned that the expansion of the gold mining sector to embrace what could well be scores of new groups of miners operating over significantly larger areas will certainly pose different challenges for the oversight body, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.
One expects that there will have to be a process of public education associated with what, in effect, is a new dimension to the gold mining sector.
The minister has told this newspaper that the process will arrive at that juncture sooner rather than later. The point should be made, of course, that the official popularization of gold mining syndicates will almost certainly coincide with the need to create a formal information base through which both groups awaiting registration as syndicates and individuals who might be considering the creation of additional ones can secure information that would enlighten them. An initiative of this nature cannot afford the luxury of becoming shrouded in a condition of information void out of which could well come all sorts of unsavory speculation.
Contextually, the point should be made that what may have been the notion that the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) was less than pleased over the syndicate idea has been publicly dispelled by the association in a media release in which it wished the smaller miners “well.” At least now we have the assurance that the individual mining operations are disposed to coexisting with the syndicates, a reassuring thought in a working environment that is often characterized by disputes and conflict.
Gold continues to play an absolutely critical role in Guyana’s economy and any initiative which expands those prospects, generates additional employment and realizes those accomplishments within the framework of official requirements and takes account of respect for the environment, for individuals and for communities is more than worthwhile. It would be interesting to see what this new dimension to the sector brings to the table in terms of its overall qualitative enhancement.