In Guyana, mining is the largest income earner and the present price of gold has led to an influx of new miners into the industry. However, there is a situation which needs urgent review by both GGMC and the GGDMA and that is in relation to the difficulty in acquiring mining lands.
The main mining areas in Guyana are in the north-western portion of the country and the Mineral Property Status Map indicates that virtually all of the areas in the known mining locations of the country are now completely covered by medium-scale mining blocks, large-scale mining ventures and, surprisingly, a very large portion of land that is being held in reserve by GGMC.
With the present price for gold, there is a continuing demand for mining areas. As it is at present, only the persons already entrenched in the mining business and who have taken out mining blocks are the ones with mineable lands. If a ‘new’ person is interested in getting into mining then he has to either lease land or enter into a partnership. This is fraught with risks for the ‘new’ miner, since there are many cases where the block-holder would intervene or remove the miner from his block if gold is found. Very often there is little that GGMC does to protect the miner from the block-holder.
It is now probably time for GGMC to review its policy as it relates to issuing lands so that other persons interested in mining can access mining lands.
There is also the case of the many large-scale mining ventures in the country which are holding up vast acreages of prime mining lands, often in the most lucrative locations. The Mining Act stipulates that these vast acreages should be reduced on a yearly basis as the exploration process advances. Yet, these large-scale companies often still hold the same acreage of land as when they initially made application, in some cases years or even decades ago.
Certainly, if a company has such lands for a number of years, then it should be able to identify its areas of specific interest within the first few of years of acquisition.
It is also a known fact that within this vast acreage of land, only a small area will eventually become the principal area of focus. So why are these companies being allowed to hold these lands for so long? GGMC should start mandating that these companies relinquish some of this acreage.
Then there is GGMC which is presently holding a surprisingly large acreage of land, either through reserve, closed area or some other mechanism. One wonders if this is beneficial to mining for the state agency to hold such a large area of land under reserve? Certainly, the country does not benefit since revenue is not gained from this very large parcel of land which would otherwise have been owned by prospective miners.
There is also the process whereby medium-scale blocks that were given up, are then sent to a lottery sale for disposal. Normally such lotteries should be done quarterly, but there has been none within recent times. Again, as with the GGMC owned land, no revenue is garnered from this system until the lottery. Probably it is now time for GGMC to rethink this strategy since more and more lands are becoming unavailable due to this system.
The mining industy is presently at a crossroads, since the gold price continues to skyrocket, but the amount of land available for mining continues to shrink, both through depletion of the known mining areas and also by the present system that is making land very scarce to acquire.
It is time that the two main players, the GGMC representing the government and the GGDMA representing the miners, have an urgent discussion on this matter and that new solutions be made.
It would definitely help if GGMC comes out and states what it has planned to sustain the mining industry, an industry that provides the bulk of revenue for the country. Some critical questions being asked are:-
1) When will there be the next auction/lottery of blocks held in reserve and mandated by law to be auctioned every year?
2) Will GGMC be relinquishing some of its lands held in reserve to further promote mining? And will it be done in an open and transparent manner?
3) Will it implement the law pertaining to large-scale mining companies to relinquish portions of their concessions on a yearly basis and then make them available to the small miners?
We are sending a copy of this letter to Commisioner (ag) of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Ms Karen Livan, for any comment she might wish to make.