New miners executive sees tough year ahead

-absence of mining lotteries a key grouse

The newly-elected executive of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGMDA) has forecast a “tough” year ahead as it looks to sustain earnings while contending with attempts to enforce stricter regulation over the industry.

At the body’s Annual General Meeting yesterday, held at the association’s headquarters on North Road, GGDMA Executive Director Edward Shields told the membership that the association continues to work towards achieving its annual production target even as several “obstacles” lie ahead.

Shields, who will go into retirement from the association which he has served for 27 years at July month end, stated that several issues which have been affecting the mining sector remain unsolved. He said the issues revolve around the regulators of the sector and moves by the authorities to impose regulations on the industry.

An issue which the industry has been facing since November 2009 was the continued shelving of the lottery of mining concessions. Shields said that since then “millions of acres of land” have been vacant, while noting that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has been ‘foot-dragging’ on the announcement of a lottery date. The areas are managed by the GGMC and Shields said that the body, which he termed a “rubber stamp,” is losing its footing as the mining regulator.

He said that the GGMC appears not to have the staff to manage the sector, while noting that several areas around the mining districts, mainly in the Potaro and Cuyuni districts as well as the Rupununi, remain closed.

Shields noted too that concessionaires who mine on Amerindian titled-lands continued to experience problems with the local authorities there—an issue which he noted that GGMC appeared to have taken control of. He said that the Amerindian Act does not allow the GGMC to make representations on behalf of the Village Councils, which are the duly recognised authorities. He noted that in the courts the association has been victorious on all matters relating to mining on the titled lands.

Shields told that membership that the industry is experiencing its most “critical time,” adding that “no one” appears to recognise the industry as the sector which contributes significantly to the economy. He noted that in 2010, the sector raked in some US$198M for the national coffers, while the timber industry earned a mere US$51M.

He said that the authorities have been looking to “cap” the industry, and that the GGMC appeared to be the body which has been containing its growth.

Patrick Perreira, a vocal critic of moves by the authorities to amend the mining regulations to fulfil the requirements of the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, noted that the sector will lose in production and labour if the forest deal signed with Norway forges ahead as planned.

While addressing the meeting, he said that he has made several analyses and based on his findings the country will lose precious time in developing its natural resources as the regulations put in place by the authorities to satisfy the Norwegians take effect.

Perreira said too that the Guyana Forestry Commission conducted a study recently by hiring a New Zealand-based firm to determine the amount of deforested land in Guyana, and he noted that among its findings, the firm stated that some 10,000 hectares of land was exposed to deforestation as a result of mining. Perreira said that the figures gave the impression that mining was contributing to deforestation here, while adding that it is unclear how the firm carried out its analysis to arrive at the figure.

Meantime, the newly-elected President of the executive membership of the GGDMA, Patrick Harding, plans to continue working with the membership of the GGDMA in order to develop the sector. Soon after being elected yesterday, he said “this year will be a tough year but we hope that by supporting the GGDMA, we can represent the industry and move forward.”

Perreira was elected to serve as Harding’s deputy, while Terrence Adams, Charles Da Silva and Azeem Baksh will serve as Secretary, Organising Secretary and Treasurer, respectively.

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