President David Granger has challenged Lindeners to embrace innovation and extend the reputation of their home from that of a mining town, which was solidified over the last 100 years, to that of a manufacturing town.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Centennial Arch to commemorate 100 years of bauxite mining in Mackenzie yesterday, Granger said that while the arch pays homage to people who built the bauxite industry with picks and shovels, it is also a promise to future generations.
“It is my hope that it will not only commemorate the centenary but also become a beacon of hope for all of us,” Granger said. He added that everyone has to be involved in working for the survival and the success of the industry since, “If it fails, we all fail. If it succeeds, we all win.”
Though he acknowledged that the industry is vulnerable to volatile external markets on which it heavily depends, the head of state opined that with investment and innovation it will not only survive but also thrive.
“Better days beckon for the bauxite industry. It will continue to be produced in this geographical belt, the hilly sand and clay region. Guyana’s bauxite reserves are not near exhaustion. We still have enough reserves to allow for production for another 100 years. [But] the development of the industry requires significant investments and that is the reason why we welcome our partners from the People’s Republic of China, we welcome them as collaborators,” Granger said.
He stressed that the Government of Guyana does not possess the resources to make such investments on its own, which is why international investors are needed and welcomed.
“We need large foreign investors with the financial means to recapitalise this industry. The region must remain attractive to foreign investors,” he explained.
He further stressed that the industry needs innovative thinking and planning as well as new technologies to develop more efficient means of production and to remove the cost associated with the removal of overburden and the shipping and processing of ore. Additionally, new sources of cheap energy must be explored to maintain profitability.
“I believe that once we overcome that hurdle, we will be able to move from bauxite to alumina and from alumina to aluminium. Linden must not be satisfied with remaining a mining town it must become a manufacturing town,” he declared to resounding applause.
He however cautioned the people of Linden to recognize both the challenges of continuity and the challenges of change and begin to wean themselves off of excessive dependency on a single industry.
“Your government is committed to supporting the diversification of the economy of Linden to enable it to first and foremost, become more of a human community rather than just a mining town. Linden can become the industrial heartland of Guyana. It is in this regard that I see this arch as an arc of hope, a gateway to the future, an entrance to a new path, rather than an exit from an old enterprise,” he said.
The arch, located at the intersection of Washerpond Road and Causarina Drive, was funded by Chinese bauxite company Bosai Minerals Group (Guyana) Limited. The company awarded the contract to Surinamese company VSH United which was also responsible for the construction of the Independence Arch located at Agricola.
Assistant General Manager of Bosai (China) Incorporated Steven Ma stated that Bosai, which has been operating in Guyana for almost ten years, has worked hard to win the confidence of the government, the people and the union.
He extolled the company’s efforts at ensuring workers receive steady wage increases as well as its commitment to protecting the environment which has seen the removal of the plumes of dust which once permeated the air.
Meanwhile outgoing Chinese Ambassador Zhang Limin stated that Bosai’s constructing of the arch was a symbol of the strong ties between the company and the town of Linden as well as the strong relations between Guyana and China.
Built on six reinforced pillars that stand five feet tall, the arch has four components: the foundation, the mainframe, the crown and centennial seal. The crown bears the logos of all the bauxite companies that operated in Linden over the past 100 years.
The location of the arch will soon, according to the Bauxite Century Planning Committee, feature a living museum and recreational park.