Guyana needs geospatial technology to evaluate hidden natural wealth

With external investor interest poised to intensify as the country moves inexorably closer to the exploitation of its now confirmed significant oil resources, Guyana can much better position itself to engage potential investors from a position of strength if it moves in a timely manner to apply geospatial technology to the creation of a reliable audit of its natural resources.

This would allow for a much-enhanced understanding of both the volumes and value of those resources and exactly where those are located, Chairman and Chief Executive of the British Virgin Islands-based AMTEC Resources Management Ltd, Dr. Peter Gollmer has told the Stabroek Business.

 Here last week on a brief fact-finding visit during which he says he was seeking to learn more about the likely development trajectory of the country, Gollmer told this newspaper that the objective of this exercise should be to be able to access information strategically that can be infused into the country’s development planning including its approach to negotiations with investors interested in minerals exploitation and other natural resources- related investment interests. “Responsible, sustainable and effective management of a country requires detailed and up to date information on all facets of government and the economic assets of the country as well as an effective way to access, understand and make the best use of such information,” Gollmer told Stabroek Business.

 According to Gollmer the retrieval and effective storage of geospatial data, that is, data that can be expressed in terms of its physical location, requires up-to-date and accurate mapping in a fully digitized and compatible format. Thereafter, all geospatial data can be added to such a platform to create the ultimate government planning and management tool, the Integrated Geospatial Databank. 

Asserting that it would be to Guyana’s considerable benefit to focus such an exercise on the retrieval and storage of information on the country’s natural resources, he said that an immediate priority would be to take stock of existing relevant geospatial data for inclusion in the Databank and identify key missing, incompatible and out of date components. Additionally, Gollmer says that such a project will also have to take account of the need to assess and update the topographical; mapping data for the country which he says will serve as the platform for the Databank and undertake “economic modelling” in order to allow for the development of a picture of Guyana’s finite resource wealth, all of which will be placed in the Databank.

 According to Gollmer, AMTEC has been involved in natural resource data acquisition, evaluation and management since the 1960’s particularly in the areas of mining, agriculture and the environment. “We have been undertaking ground-breaking nation-wide exploration, resource evaluation and development projects around the world for more than fifty years, covering around 15 million km2, more than 40 major projects, many on a nation-wide scale in more than 20 countries,” Gollmer told Stabroek Business.

Over the years, AMTEC has executed projects in digital resource evaluation, base and precious metal exploration, mineral potential assessment and geological interpretation of oil and gas exploration in several countries including Kenya, Zambia, Congo, Yemen, Bolivia, Tanzania, Guinea (West Africa) and Saudi Arabia.  Gollmer told Stabroek Business that a fully integrated geospatial data base would position Guyana to comprehensively take stock of  known and probable resources, assess the values that can be attributed to such resources allowing for enhanced planning and financing at a nationwide level, allow for ‘what if’ scenarios that may need to be evaluated in the event of “conflicting project proposals” in resource-related areas such as water, minerals, hydrocarbons and forestry, land use-related considerations like agriculture, town planning and coastal development and environmental issues including waste disposal and atmosphere management.

According to Gollmer there has been some exploratory discussions with government and private sector officials but he is keen to further engage local functionaries on the prospects that such an initiative could hold for the country’s future. 

“This holistic national approach to quantifying and valuing the natural resources of Guyana will be of tremendous benefit to all stakeholders including the private sector and the Guyanese people in general,” he concluded.