The mining sector should not be open to non-nationals

Dear Editor,

Over the years I have read about the various companies that have an interest in mining operations in Guyana and wondered whether the government has created an environment of self-deprecation.

Over the very years I have never noticed a foreign entity or firm proposing the idea of building a factory that would use Guyanese labour and other inputs  to produce a product for the benefit of the Guyanese consuming public. Guyana consumers would welcome any company that produces televisions, computers, microwaves, audio equipment, etc. These are products that Guyana imports to satisfy the consuming public. The need for these products is as glaring as the need for cheese. Yet there are no companies with the interest to satisfy that niche in Guyana’s consuming market.

However, if we look at the numerous proposals to open gold mining operations, one must wonder why there is so much interest in mining our mineral resources. We in Guyana are not interested in more gold production and the use of environmental pollutants that affect the rivers and streams. We are also not interested in seeing our mineral wealth depleted where we have no infrastructure to show that we once had minerals. Currently, there are pollutants constantly being released in our rivers, streams and land area. These byproducts, over the years will cause us significant harm. The effects of these pollutants, such as mercury, are not ephemeral and would last longer than memory would allow. It seems that the mining environment is built to attract those who are desirous of relieving Guyana of its mineral wealth and absconding when the minerals are no longer economically cheap to obtain. The name Omai is a case in point, where the company claimed its operations were unprofitable, but yet had the financial resources to try and engage in other ventures. The dip and skip action was clearly evident, negating any concern for the nation’s development.

There is no sincerity about contributing to the development of Guyana. It is, therefore, in the best interest of Guyana to become nationalistic and protect our interest by not allowing mining entities which are not fully Guyanese owned to venture into mining.

Guyana must also increase controls on all mining operations. This will alleviate the problem of the influx of small miners from nearby territories who destroys the environment creating numerous lakes when the alluvial and overburden are removed. The smuggling of gold and diamonds out of the country would also be impacted by Guyana instituting more controls on those who are interested in mining our natural resources. Currently, Guyana does not have enough mining inspectors to monitor how much gold is being extracted and how much is being reported. If there is deliberate under reporting Guyana does not have the mechanism to ensure that the figures are correct and tax revenues reflect what was mined. Guyana cannot state how much gold and diamonds are smuggled out of the country.

Currently, there seems to be no concern as to the environmental impact that these numerous mining ventures have, but in the near future Guyana would be hard pressed to restore the environment given the pits and lakes that dot the mining landscape.

As reported in the Guyanese press recently, an Australian company is interested in gold mining in Guyana. The question should be, what is Guyana getting from these numerous mining ventures?  How much can Guyana retain when it receives a mere 5% from these ventures? Would it not be preferable for our minerals to remain undeveloped only to be mined by a Guyanese venture which may have the resources? This action would ensure that a larger portion of revenues would remain in Guyana and not be spirited out.

Not everyone who comes to Guyana with an investment plan is or should be considered an investor. The major attributes of an investor are the amount of investment dollars put into the country, the length of the investment period and upon conclusion if the host country could competently continue the operations based on the training the locals received.

We are capable of digging our gold and do not need so many large and small entities to help us dig. The amount of people, who are not Guyanese in the interior is alarming. Every nation seems to have a national digging our gold with the blessing of the Guyana government.

The laxity that exists in the gold and diamond mining sector is what encourages those who prefer to blatantly steal our gold by under reporting what was mined. What is also not reported, is the amount of diamonds extracted.

To stop this gross exploitation of our mineral resources, the Government of Guyana should restrict the free and easy access to the mining areas and require all miners to show a government licence that permits individuals to legally mine gold and diamonds in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,
Patrick Barker

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