The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miner’s Association (GGDMA) has been waiting for over a year for talks with Police Commissioner Henry Greene on crime in interior mining areas—a situation that President Bharrat Jagdeo dubbed “unacceptable” during a meeting with miners yesterday.
The issue was raised with Jagdeo when he met with miners during a GGDMA’s bi-monthly meeting, held yesterday at the Regency Suites on Hadfield Street.
Over the past several months, there has been a spate of armed robberies and murders within various parts of the country’s mining areas, and particularly in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni mining district in Region 7.
President of the GGDMA Patrick Harding noted yesterday that the mining body has been concerned about an increase in criminal activities in the mining areas. He said that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has agreed to meet with the GGDMA to discuss the issue but he noted that efforts to meet with Commissioner Greene for more than a year have been unsuccessful.
President Jagdeo, who was the main guest speaker at the meeting, said that it was an “unacceptable” situation. “People’s lives cannot be put at risk in the mining community,” he said, while noting that criminals view the interior as “a new frontier” with the increase in gold prices.
He said that the police force should be able to ensure that “they (criminals) do not harm hard working people in the mining sector,” while pointing out that the force is in possession of “a lot of intelligence on gangs and criminals.” He called on the miners to work with the security forces to arrest the situation, while assuring those present that Greene, along with representatives of the Guyana Police Force and the Home Affairs Ministry, would meet with the association on the issue.
The target for this year’s gold production is set at 300,000 ounces and according to the GGDMA it is within reach, with the most recent production figure at 277,000 ounces.
At yesterday’s meeting, several issues were raised by the miners, including the state of many interior roads and the issuance of cease orders by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to miners. Former executive director of the GGDMA and now consultant to the body Edward Shields noted that 158 cease orders have been issued for the year, including 27 last month. He said that the issue at hand was the delay in which the issuance of permits by the GGMC and according to him the regulatory body seemed unprepared to carry out its mandate in the fields as a result of a lack of personnel.
It was also noted by some miners that the state of the interior roads were a cause of concern and Harding noted that it appeared that only when the rains begin is action taken to fix the roads.
Jagdeo, who has faced stiff opposition from miners over the introduction of regulations that they say will cripple the industry, promised that the sector would see “continuity and stability” in future. He said his administration has provided ample support to the industry to ensure that it continues to progress, while adding that legislation and regulations would not affect growth of the sector.
He told the miners that the model image of the sector can be achieved by having a responsible industry, while adding that the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is a reality that is not meant to affect development possibilities. The forest pact with Norway, he noted, was signed in order to allow mining to continue within the conditions of the agreement. “But we have to mine smartly, not because of Norway, but because of the beauty of Guyana that belongs to all of us,” he added.
Jagdeo said that the authorities need to have a greater presence in the hinterland areas, while adding that the GGMC can be decentralised in this regard. “Where you have some significant amount of mining, we need to improve at the agency level, all of those are routine things we need to work on,” he noted.
The president noted that over the past few months there has been “a major shift” in the traditional sectors of the economy.
He said that in the bauxite industry, Russian mining company RUSAL is working to make Guyana its primary source of the mineral for its plant in Russia. The move, he said, would result in a massive increase in production in the mineral and result in the generation of a number of jobs.
He also mentioned the manganese mining project signed with Canadian company Reunion Manganese, which he said is going to progress further next year. He added that oil and gas production can become big earners for Guyana and noted that expectations have been fuelled by positive prospecting developments in neighbouring French Guiana.