Patterson accused of misleading on distribution of oil blocks

A GGMC map showing the distribution of petroleum-mining blocks up to February, 2017

The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) yesterday refuted a claim by Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson that it had distributed all of the country’s petroleum-mining blocks, while challenging him to disclose all of the allocations.

At a press conference on Thursday, members of the Alliance For Change (AFC) were asked to respond to accusations made by opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo that the party’s members had applied for Petroleum Exploration Licences with the intention of acquiring available petroleum-mining blocks for immediate resale on the international market.

“There is nothing left to give out, and Jagdeo knows that,” Patterson, however, responded.

He further claimed that when the coalition government got into power in 2015, the previous PPP administration had “already given out everything” and even in some cases “to people we do not even know.”

“There is nothing to give, they have given out all and he [Jagdeo] should know because when he was president he was the person in charge of natural resources,” Patterson added, while drawing a parallel between the petroleum-mining blocks and productive forest lands which Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman told the National Assembly had been shared out prior to the coalition assuming government.

But in a statement issued yesterday, the PPP rejected Patterson’s claim, calling it a “ridiculous contention.” “Ministers have a responsibility to go to press conferences… and equip themselves with facts in relation to matters upon which they intend to speak and must refrain from vocally emitting every bizarre thought that comes to their minds,” the statement said.

It added that even public statements made by Trotman show that there are many more petroleum-mining blocks available.

Trotman is quoted as saying that in granting new oil and gas exploration and production licences, national interests would determine whether government goes openly and publicly with international bids, or whether it would have quiet and private discussions.

“Without more, Trotman’s assertion by themselves prove that Patterson is lying. Moreover, everyone who has some familiarity with the sector knows that they are several petroleum-mining blocks available. However, if Patterson has correctly expressed the position of the Government, then we call upon the Government to make public a list of all the petroleum-mining blocks, the names of the persons or companies to whom they have been allocated and the date of allocation. This disclosure will alert the public to the fact that no new petroleum-mining blocks can be allocated in the near future,” the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, Jagdeo also released a Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) map showing the blocks that have been allocated as well as those that are still available.

According to the map, dated February 17, there have been block allocations in 10 parcels while “available blocks” exist in at least seven areas.

Those allocated include the Stabroek, Kaieteur, Roraima, Canje, Demerara, Orinduik, Kanuku and Corentyne blocks.

Additionally, attorney Christopher Ram, during a presentation titled “Oil- Its Challenges and Opportunities” hosted by the Moray House Trust last evening, also said that there were available oil blocks in the country.

Also using a GGMC map during his presentation, Ram said that blocks are still available and labelled the minister’s comments as totally wrong.

“The country is divided into blocks… this is a map and it shows a lot has been given out but very interestingly there are still a large number of blocks available. So, to suggest that 100% was issued is completely wrong and dangerous,” he added.

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