As the government laments the under declaration of gold for this year, one only hopes that it opens its eyes to the bigger picture of issues affecting the industry.
Mr Minister, the drop in gold declaration has not only been because of an under declaration. There are also other issues which are forcing miners to close down their operations hence resulting in a drop in production rather than an under declaration.
Firstly, the main mining areas are becoming mined out. So good mining production is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Allied to this is the scarcity of land for the smaller miner since most good lands have been hoarded by the big miner whose self-interests have forced the small man out of business.
It is now time for the GGMC to open up some of their vast reserves which are presently inaccessible to the miner. And please do not do it in a manner where the big miners who already hold vast acreages are the only ones to benefit. These are decisions that will most definitely have a positive impact on the mining industry and improve gold declaration.
For too long the big miner has been protected by the GGMC. He hoards large amounts of land yet does very little with them. There is a clause in the Mining Act which mandates them to do something with their lands within a specified time period after which the land should return to the state. Please start enforcing the law. That way other miners can utilize the land if the big miner does not deem it profitable for him.
The mining industry is similar to the parable about killing the goose that laid the golden egg. It provides so much benefits to this country, yet some decisions and policies by the authorities can only be interpreted as attempting to stifle the industry. Lack of available lands is a classic example of shortsighted decision-making by the authorities.
So while it is all well and good to mandate the relevant agencies to clamp down on the supposed illegal gold trading, there will be little benefit if there is a reduction in actual mining.
The time is now, Minister Persaud, for you to lead an urgent reassessment of policies, especially as it pertains to acquiring lands, if you truly want to ensure continued high performance in the sector. Under declaration cannot be the only reason for this downturn in gold declaration. Send your team of officials on the ground to the mining locations and let them interact with the main people in the business, the actual miner. They will tell of the many difficulties that are affecting them. The key issue that will be brought up is the lack of lands. Feedback from such outreach can define your policies to move the industry forward.
This under declaration may turn out to be the catalyst that is needed to revive the industry. But not in the way the minister presently envisages. He needs to reinvigorate the industry by changing some policies to enable lands to be more easily available to the smaller miner. Once a miner can be guaranteed that he has lands to work, free of stoppages and unfair practices, certainly he’ll take a risk and invest in mining.
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