I fully understand Everall Franklin’s call that ” A Natural Resources Audit be conducted despite the expense. ” (07.10.28). However for an audit of this nature to mean much it must attach values to each resource. This is of course impractical and almost impossible. For an audit to be really useful it should carry an evaluation of the resource not just the recognition and acknowledgement that it exists in a particular geographic location. To determine how much gold there is in the North West, for example, and its exact locations is a task that would take many years and cost an awful lot of money. Meaningful audit of a 20 sq mile site to determine its economic resource in gold alone could easily cost in the region of US$ 10 to 15 million if done properly. Even if it were possible to pinpoint with some accuracy the volume of gold present in a given geographical area, a calculus of its value will always depend on prevailing terminal market conditions and these we all know are not static.
It needs to be said that knowing “what we have and where it is ” is hardly beneficial on its own. In any case much of this information is already available at the levels of GGMC, GFC and the Ministry of Agriculture and at less organized levels. For instance when Unamco was cutting its 50-mile access road to the forest South of Kwakwani, what seemed to be huge kaolin deposits were discovered. In fact an entire hill we cut through seemed to be one enormous kaolin formation. Kaolin or China Clay is a fine white clay used in the manufacture of porcelain also crockery, medicines and paint. The information in itself, though interesting, could only be added to the country’s inventory of useful geological resources and stored in the appropriate data base for future reference. The cost of a full-scale investigation of the kaolin’s exact volume, quality and terminal market value would have been extremely expensive and without the prospect of early exploitation of the resource of what use would such costly information have been. In actual fact it was fortunate that the Honourable PM Sam Hinds was with us at the time and recognized that what I took for a huge mountain of Johnson’s Baby Powder was in fact Kaolin.
I wish also to mention that modern hydro facilities do not need areas to be flooded. Some sizes of generating capacity need only a river with an all year flow of water or gentle rapids or small water falls. For instance in 1996 Scandinavian hydro experts identified at least 2 locations within a 30-mile stretch of the upper Berbice River perfectly suitable for 6 megawatt hydro facilities ( Christmas Falls and Marlissa Rapids if my memory serves me well). Any of these facilities could have provided all the energy needs for Kwakwani,Aroaima and the Riverain communities at Bamboo Landing, West Kwakwani and those on the Intermediate Savannahs. Guyana is the land of many waters and rivers and perhaps we should be looking at a series of smaller hydro schemes close to populated areas to reduce transmission costs rather than the expensive mega-projects which require dam construction and wreak havoc with river-based ecosystems while displacing many residents.
Indeed, Guyana needs to invest in an up-dated and detailed inventory of its natural resources. More importantly, however, it needs to invest in resource-based skills at the tertiary level in order to increase our population of geologists (every large timber extracting company should employ one ),wood technologists, ethnopharmacologists, petroleum, mining and hydraulic engineers,physicists as well as people skilled in converting these valuable raw resources into marketable value-added products.
The task is not just to inventory of our natural resources but to know exactly what to do with them and how to treat with them in ways that maximize returns to Guyana.
F. Hamley Case