The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has called for greater collaboration between miners and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) in order to improve mining practices.
“For the industry to continue to survive and thrive, we see the need for more collaboration between miners and the GGMC. GGMC is not only a regulatory body, but was also formed to assist miners in the fields, to help them mine smarter, safer and more environmentally friendly. The GGDMA would like to see greater commitment from the GGMC in supporting the development of the gold and diamond mining industry using similar approaches that currently benefit the agriculture sector,” Vice-President of the GGDMA Andron Alphonso said at a Mining Week activity recently. A copy of his remarks was provided to Stabroek News.
Alphonso pointed out that there are technical extension services offered to farmers by way of research, farming efficiency and technical advice for best practices, among others. “The mining industry needs similar assistance as it relates to mining matters. We believe this will also work to change the view of GGMC staffers in the fields as policemen to colleagues and technical advisors. In so doing, this will foster a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation,” he said.
The GGDMA official highlighted the successes of the industry pointing to the sector’s “mammoth” contribution to the economy, the provision of employment, and the declaration of 450,873 ounces of gold for 2015. “As the largest earner of foreign currency for our nation, the local gold and diamond mining industry has been the main driver of growth, development and disposable income in Guyana over the last decade,” he said.
However, he noted that while there has been much success over the last year, there have been many trials as well. “The lack of access to mineralised lands, rising operational cost, the poor condition of many interior roads and lack of roads leading into new mining areas as well as continued inefficient mineral recovery technologies are just some of the issues that have plagued, and continues to plague, our industry,” Alphonso declared.
He said that the GGDMA has held meetings with the various governmental agencies, including the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, the GGMC and the Guyana Gold Board in the hopes of arriving at workable solutions that will alleviate the challenges stated and provide solutions to these issues.
“While progress at times is slower than any of us would wish, we do take note that efforts are being made on both sides to accomplish set goals. We wish to thank the minister for meeting with us at regularly scheduled intervals to discuss our issues and also the management of GGMC with whom we enjoy even more regularly scheduled engagements. We hope that these engagements will continue as they have helped to bring clarity to a number of issues in the past and we believe that they will bear much fruits in the future,” he said.
The GGDMA official also spoke of the “travesty of losing over a dozen of our own to mining related accidents” in the interior last year. He said that there is no value that can be placed on a human life, and “while mining does have its unavoidable potential perils and occupational hazards, such deaths are unacceptable and all stakeholders must continue to work together to curb this trend that also puts mining in a negative light.”
He said that health and safety must play an integral role in every mining operation if such grave accidents are to be avoided from occurring in the future. He said the GGDMA fully supports the MNR and the GGMC in their efforts to sensitize and assist miners in upgrading the level of their operations with health and safety in mind.
In light of the need for more environmentally friendly mining and the impending ban on the use of mercury in the local mining sector, Alphonso also highlighted the need to up efforts at improving recovery technologies for gold.
“Over the years, it has been stated by numerous professionals in the industry, local and abroad, that the current recovery methods utilised in alluvial mining operations in Guyana only recovers approximately 20 to 30% of the gold in gravel that is processed. Lending credence to this argument is the fact that historically, many of the main areas where mining has taken place have seen gravel passed, then the tailings of those operations re-mined many times after,” he said while adding that a sizeable percentage of the gold that was declared last year would have come from such areas.
“In a more efficient operation with the right type of technology, such areas would only be mined once and the vast majority of the gold and diamond mineral reserves would be recovered during the first instance that gravel is passed. Hypothetically speaking, if better recovery methods were employed in 2015 that are twice as efficient as what is currently employed, declarations could have easily been in excess of 800,000 ounces, and it is worth noting that even at that level there would still be room to recover an additional 20 to 30% more minerals,” the GGDMA official said.
He emphasised that when contemplating the technology to be utilised, it must also be kept in mind that it must be practical and applicable to all levels of the local mining industry, in particular the small scale miners.
Alphonso recalled that in October 2016, President David Granger gave to the GGMC and the MNR five directives that will guide policy in the mining sector. He noted that one of these directives spoke to the transfer of technology at all levels of mining: small, medium and large scale.
“The GGDMA applauds all of the directives of His Excellency. However, we wish to state that if the local gold and diamond industry is to thrive while operating at a world class level and in unison with international standards, it is of foremost importance that this directive be realised, and not only the transfer of technology, but the creation of symbiotic arrangements where the resources of bigger operators are made available to smaller operators who may not be able to afford the relevant technologies that would aid in more efficient mining practices and higher recovery rates,” he said.
“Such high hopes for the industry can only become a reality with continued collaboration between the miners and the policy makers. The path that lays ahead for the industry at times would appear to be a daunting one for many in the sector; however Rome was not built in a day and building a world class mining sector will take time,” Alphonso declared.