While one admires the boundless energy and optimism of the Minister of National Resources and Environment, one would hope that he reflects on the unfulfilled optimism with which he transitioned from his previous portfolio, and particularly the unachieved targets set for the sugar industry as a whole, and the Skeldon Complex in particular.
The priority focus now seems to be the institution and operations of the GGMC, established by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Act, Cap 65 as a body corporate.
The Schedule to the Act specifies that the Commission shall consist of:
a) the Chairman who shall be appointed by the Minister, but if no person is so appointed, the Minister shall be the Chairman of the Commission;
b) the Commissioner;
c) not more than twelve other persons appointed by the Minister.”
Para (2) states that: “The names of the members of the Commission as first constituted and every change in the membership thereof shall be notified in the Gazette.”
The (main) function of the Commission is listed at Section 4(1) of the Act as follows:
a) to promote interest in mining and mineral exploration, the development of the mineral potential of Guyana, and the production, supply and sale of minerals and mineral products;
b) to participate in and advise on the economical exploitation, beneficiation, utilisation and marketing of the mineral resources of Guyana.”
Section 4(3) of the Act authorises the Commission’s responsibility for:
a) the enforcement of the conditions of mining and dredging leases, concessions, or exclusive permissions, or any licence, permit, or mineral agreement granted, or entered into, or deemed to be granted or entered into, under the Mining Act;
b) the collection and recovery of all rents, fees, royalties, penalties, levies, tolls and charges payable under the Mining Act and any other revenues of the Commission;
c) Hall marking.”
With stated exercises requiring the approval of the Minister, Section 5(1) of the Act provides as follows:
“The Commission may employ at such remuneration and on such other terms and conditions it thinks fit (including the payment of pensions, gratuities or other like benefits by reference to the service of its officers and other employees) a Commissioner, a Secretary and such other officers and other employees as the Commission considers necessary for the purpose of carrying out its functions.”
So far as the Commissioner’s reporting relationship is concerned Section 5(2) states:
“The Commissioner shall be the chief executive officer of the Commission and, subject to any general or special directions of the Commission, shall be responsible for the execution of the policy of the Commission and answerable therefor to the Commission.”
It is the Commission which in turn reports to the Minister, as set out following:
1) The Minister may give to the Commission directions of a general character as to the policy to be followed by the Commission in the performance of its functions and the Commission shall give effect to those directions.
2) In carrying out such measures of reorganisation or such works of development as involve a substantial outlay on capital account, the Commission shall act in accordance with a general programme approved, from time to time, by the Minister.
3) In the exercise of its functions in relation to training, education and research, the Commission shall act in accordance with a general programme approved by the Minister.
4) The Commission shall afford to the Minister information requested by him with respect to the business of the Commission and shall furnish him with annual estimates, and such returns as he may require.
5) The Commission shall provide the Minister with such facilities as will enable the verification of information furnished in pursuance of this section.
6) The power of the Minister to give directions to the Commission under this section shall extend to giving to the Commission directions as to –
a) the disposal of capital assets;
b) the application of the proceeds of such disposals.”
Section 4(1) of the Schedule alludes to meetings of the Commission. Following are some of the guidelines:
1) The Commission shall meet at such times as may be necessary or expedient for the transaction of business, and the meetings shall be held at such places and times and on such days as the Commission may determine.
2) The Chairman may at any time summon a special meeting of the Commission.
7) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Commission may regulate its own proceedings.”
“5.1) The Commission may appoint committees a it may deem fit to examine and report to it on any matter arising out of or connected with any of its functions.”
5) Subject to the provisions of this Act the Commission may delegate to any committee or member or officer of the Commission the authority to carry out on its behalf such functions as the Commission may determine.”
It has been noticeable that the subject Minister in his recent perambulations has detoured around the Commission proper, while alluding to such developmental activities involving both the GGMC and the Gold Board.
The following published remarks refer:
a) “upgrading and capacity building at the level of their agencies”;
b) “new offices will be built at Bartica for the GGMC and Gold Board staff”;
c) “plans to establish12 stations across the mining districts.”
One finds it hard to believe (and indeed accept, the pretence) that the Commission so far has not publicly been acknowledged as a lawful authority of the ‘body corporate,’which must, as normal, be required to compose a relevant work plan and budget.
On the other hand it seems quite possible that the ministry (yet to be announced as a gazetted budget agency) will compose its own budgetary arrangements, particularly having regard to the following published comments:
a) “examining the possibilities of adding a number of independent inspectors who [would] operate outside the day-to-day monitoring staff of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission.”
b) “inspectors will make surprise visits to mining camps and will be given authority to investigate and take the necessary action where required.”
Should a) and b) above be read to mean that there will be two parallel operations – one within the meaning of the Mining Act No. 20 of 1989, and one outside of it? This schizophrenic approach must be a source of derision in any language of miners. The law is the law. There must be mutual adherence to the law by both officials and miners. How is it possible to expect compliance with other parties not authorised by the Mining Act?
One is forced to resort to the said Act for guidance, on the recruitment of independent inspectors (which would have already been perused by the Minister, and appropriate advice sought). Section 5 of the Mining Act reads as follows:
1) The Minister may by notice published in the Gazette, designate for the purposes of this Act or any provision thereof, a public officer or any other person employed by the Government or any employee of the Commission as a mines officer and any such notice shall specify the area for which, and for the purposes of which provisions of this Act, the mines officer is appointed.
2) The Minister may by notice published in the Gazette, designate for the purposes of this Act, a public officer or any other person employed by the Government or an employee of the Commission as a district mines officer and specify the mining district for which he is so appointed:
Provided that the same person may be appointed as district mines officer for more than one mining district.
3) A district mines officer shall have, unless the Minister otherwise directs by notice published in the Gazette, all the functions conferred by this Act on a mines officer and a district mines officer within the mining district or mining districts for which he is so designated.
4) There shall be such other officers as may be considered necessary for the purposes of this Act, who shall respectively have and exercise the functions assigned to them by or under this Act or by the Commission or the Minister.
5) The Commissioner of Geological Surveys and Mines shall, by virtue of his office, be a mines officer and shall have throughout Guyana all the functions conferred by this Act on a mines officer and a district mines officer.”
With regard to the establishment of stations, the Act provides as follows:
1) The Minister may by notice published in the Gazette, establish one or more stations in or in the neighbourhood of a mining district.
2) The Commission shall, by notice published in the Gazette, designate a mines officer to be in charge of a station”.
The purpose of a station is defined as follows:
1) The Minister may by order direct that any person going to or coming from a mining district specified therein shall stop and report at one or more of the stations specified therein to the mines officer or respective mines officers in charge thereof.
2) Where the mines officer in charge of a station has reason to suspect that evidence of the contravention, or intended contravention, of any provision of this Act, the Guyana Gold Board Act 1981 or the Customs Act may be found on any person who has reported to the station or on or in any container or thing in the possession of that person, such officer may search and examine his body or the thing.”
Regarding ‘surprise visits’ these would appear to be envisaged (and presumably currently conducted) as authorised by Section 126 of the Act which deals exhaustively with the ‘Power of entry, etc.’
Subsection 126(1) (a) and (b) below give an indication of such power:
1) For the purposes of this Act a mines officer, district mines officer, or other officer referred to in Section 5 may, at all reasonable times, –
a) enter and inspect any area, structure, building, vehicle, vessel or aircraft which, in the opinion of the mines officer, district mines officer or other officer, has been, is being, or is to be, used in connection with prospecting operations or mining operations;
b) inspect, examine and test, or cause to be examined or tested by a qualified person, any machinery or equipment which, in the opinion of the mines officer, district mines officer, or other officer, has been, is being or is to be, used in connection with any of the operations referred to in paragraph (a).”
The Act goes on to specify what penalties can be applied in areas of contravention and matters of non-compliance – to all of which ‘independent inspectors’ will have to be carefully oriented by ‘day-to-day’ GGMC officers, lest unbridled impetuosity is countered by more measured legal action. This orientation will certainly contribute to ‘capacity building.’
So in the end the selection process of ‘independent inspectors’ will have to satisfy the normal recruitment criteria, to assure the ministry, as well as GGMC, of the former’s potential effectiveness.
It follows therefore that the job (and description) should be advertised, and applicants undergo a transparent review process by an agreed panel of relevant expertise. There must of course be parity of pay with their ‘day-to-day’ counterparts.
The final ingredient in the pot must be the reporting relationship – particularly as the courts can be part of the disciplinary process.
How would pork-knockers examine ‘the possibilities’ of the Ministry ‘acting’ outside of the Mining Act?
E B John