Wardens to be deployed against gold smugglers next year – Finance Minister

Unlikely to be effective, GGMC source says

Finance Minister Winston Jordan making his 2018 budget presentation in the National Assembly

The efforts of the Ministry of Natural Resources attended by external support notwithstanding, the Government of Guyana still considers the phenomenon of gold smuggling to be seriously injurious to the country’s economy and in his recent 2018 budget presentation to the National Assembly, Finance Minister Winston Jordan set out the APNU+AFC administration’s proposals for helping to address this problem.

Government, according to the Finance Minister, intends to deploy forty-one trained wardens/compliance officers into mining areas “vested with the powers of various categories of law enforcement” and tasked with enforcing mining regulations and other relevant laws.”

However, a well-placed functionary in the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) who agreed to provide a comment to this newspaper on condition of anonymity said that the deployment “would more likely than not be ineffective” since gold smuggling was a “sophisticated operation” that included elements of clandestineness, bribery and corruption. “I hate to say it but it definitely would not surprise me if some of these wardens are bought off.”

In his budget presentation on November 27 Jordan declared that the gold mining sector’s “admirable performance” last year “will be replicated this year and is expected to be surpassed in 2018 “though he added that what is widely felt to be a significant disparity between production and declaration was a function of “thousands of ounces reportedly being smuggled out of the country every month.

Early last year, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had raised eyebrows here with his pronouncement that it was likely that up to 15,000 ounces of gold was being smuggled out of the country every week, which in effect meant that revenues from more than half of the country’s gold production were being lost to the public treasury.

Trotman had said then that the smuggled gold was being taken to Brazil and Suriname then landed in Miami and New York and as far as Europe and the Middle East.

Gold smuggling from Guyana had caught the attention of the anti-terrorism elements in United States law enforcement and witnessed the presence here of United States FBI and Homeland Security functionaries though government has never reported the apprehending of anyone believed to be involved in smuggling. “That’s a good one,” the GGMC functionary retorted in response to a question raised by this newspaper. “Do you think that anyone will ever be caught?”

Jordan said in his budget presentation that the work of the Wardens, who will function under the direction of the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Compliance Division will “supplement the efforts of the GGMC to reduce the incidence of illegal mining and improve compliance”.

Just weeks ago Trotman gave the green light for the commencement of gold mining on lands assigned by government to groups of small miners who will pool their resources in groups known as syndicates. The Ministry says that apart from seeking to put an end to exploitative renting of parcels of gold-bearing lands to small miners by their established counterparts, syndicates are intended to open up access to gold mining by small operators as part of President David Granger’s promised ‘good life’ for all Guyanese.