APNU MP Dr Rupert Roopnaraine on Monday urged the creation of a fund from mining royalties to drive development in mining districts.
In his contribution to the debate on the government’s proposed $208.8B budget, Roopnaraine also warned the National Assembly that there needs to be a systematic approach to land use to address deficiencies in the mining sector, as opposed to a Band-Aid-type approach that has harmed other sectors.
According to him, this year’s budget has to find common ground for all political parties because only in compromise would the people benefit the most.
He said that a natural resources wealth fund was thinking ahead and was preparing for the future and he proposed a scheme that would require miners to pay royalties into the fund that would then go toward development.
To support his argument, he quoted from the ParlAmericas recommendations from a workshop on “Parliaments and Extractive Industries:
How to Improve Oversight and Increase Collaboration,” which stated that some of the windfall from the US$624M of gold earnings in 2012 should go to “develop the infrastructure necessary to provide for settled and viable communities in the mining district, as well as for development of alternative economic enterprises.”
As an example, he said the coffers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are “sufficiently bloated” to release funds for the training of women miners to promote gender equality in the sector.
Roopnaraine, however, also noted that with production of over 400,000 ounces of gold annually by the small to medium-scale miners, the question of resource exhaustion arises and Guyana must prepare for how long the resources can truly last.
He further said that the larger issue is Guyana’s land use policy, which he noted is the subject of obsolete legislation that neither reflects contemporary planning practices nor meets the needs of Guyana.
He pointed out that the development of a national inter-sectoral land use planning system is an obligation under the Memorandum of Understanding between Guyana and the Government of Norway as a part of the REDD+ process in pursuing the Low Carbon Develop-ment Strategy (LCDS).
Roopnaraine said that control over land use in Guyana is centralised and politicised, which hampers cohesion in the LCDS process, granting of mining licences and agriculture projects, among other things.
Instead of addressing the problems, he added, the proposed budget gave an impression of “trying to plug holes rather than developing and implementing rationalised road maps to provide long term development.”
He said the Band-Aid type solution was persistently used in the “chronically underperforming sugar and electricity sectors” and that mining, forestry and other natural resources sectors should not suffer the same fate.
The government has the ability to develop sector committees that would address central strategies to facilitate cohesion on land use policies that could then percolate to varying agencies with consistency, he argued.
Dr Roopnaraine said that the “the inherent conflict in the forestry and mining sectors are a legacy of not having a land use policy… so that logging concessions were awarded without recognising that the Guyana Geology and Mines Com-mission has already given out mining permits in the same concessions.”
He added that the country lacks historical data and that the impacts of logging and mining of the environment cannot be accurately determined since there is little or no generic data against which to analyse data now being collected on what he said is an irregular and inadequate basis, given the limited personnel at the GGMC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Roopnaraine also addressed developments in the bauxite industry and he said the GGMC needs to hold Bosai and Rusal more accountable.
He said the companies need to satisfy the terms and conditions of their licences and he noted that the GGMC is charged with ensuring this happened.