Miners keeping keen eye on price of gold

– free fall could see revert to fuel concessions

As the price of gold tumbled further, yesterday’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) was expected to focus on, among other things, likely engagements with government on concessions for the sector in the event it slipped into a free fall.

Administrative Manager of the GGDMA Colin Sparman told Stabroek Business in a telephone interview on Wednesday that while the day’s gold price of around US$1,200 per ounce definitely had the attention of interested parties, the industry was still “nowhere near a condition of panic”. He said the industry had, in the past, worked with prices “below US$1,000 an ounce”; though slippage below that figure would almost certainly see approaches being made to government for some concessions. The official said the customary concessions in times of falling gold prices related mostly to fuel subsidies.

While yesterday’s AGM was to deal with various mundane issues like the election of office bearers for the next year, Sparman said falling gold prices and the challenges that could emerge therefrom were expected to be the much  more important issue.

Meanwhile, Sparman said the AGM was also likely to be preoccupied with other key mining issues including the cloud that hangs over the sector linked to the issue of trafficking in persons (TIP). Sparman said the GGDMA had already made its position clear on human trafficking, stressing that its policy frowned on the hiring of under-age persons to work in the sector and committed members to assisting persons who may have been victims of trafficking. Additionally, Sparman said the GGDMA was supportive of the efforts of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation to eradicate trafficking.

According to Sparman, yesterday’s meeting was also likely to deal with the issue of working towards “good order” in the sector particularly as it relates to the location of shops in mining communities. He said the promises of the police notwithstanding, vendors continued to resist the idea of setting up shops at established landings, choosing instead to “follow mining activity”. Sparman said the mobility of the shops made the stamping out of the irregularities “a difficult challenge.”

Meanwhile, he said that some of the country’s larger miners had already begun to “buy into” mercury-free mining by investing in mercury-free equipment. Some mining companies have already acquired Shaker Tables and Concentrators and were now operating in a mercury-free environment. “However optimistic we are about abolishing mercury in the mining process, the issue of the high cost of mercury-free equipment will remain a consideration with the small miners. Because of the disparity in cost between a US$250,000 piece of equipment and a small quantity of mercury, I believe that we are likely to see the use of mercury in the sector for some while. Of course, there is always the danger of environmental pressures from overseas buyers, which… would have their own consequences,” Sparman said.

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