Local content is relatively high in the operations of the Canadian-owned Aurora Gold Mines (AGM) with most of its senior managers, contractors and sub-contractors being Guyanese and the majority of its purchases being local says its senior managers on the Cuyuni River site. The managers of Guyana Goldfields Inc – the operator of the Aurora mine – made their observations in the backdrop of claims that the company was not giving back to the country in relation to the fiscal concessions granted to it and that local content in its operations was low.
Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman told the managers and the media at the AGM camp site last week Wednesday that Government “is going to start examining the gold sector primarily to see whether the value or volume of concessions, given to companies like Aurora Gold Mines, is in keeping with a rate of return that is commensurate with what Government is offering. To whom much is given much is expected”
Trotman was accompanied by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Jaipaul Sharma. Sharma is also Chairman of the Economic Services Committee of Parliament which is currently running a number of advertisements in relation to hearings on the issue.
“His visit here, Trotman said of Sharma, “is not just sight-seeing but to be able to frame and put everything into context when he starts those hearings.”
When people read about concessions given to companies, Trotman said, “every country in the world that wishes to attract a certain level of investment, not just any investment but the best that gives the best, that has a high sense of social and civic consciousness and which pays their taxes, that is the type of company we want to attract.”
It was easy for the media to criticise, he said, “but they must understand what it is to carve a rock, to be able to maintain a camp deep in the jungle and to deal with the elements. You have to actually come and experience it yourself. You have to understand why concessions are given, why targets are not met, or, not surpassed.”
During the ministers’ visit to the mining operations, the senior managers of Guyana Goldfields sought to refute reports that the company was not giving back to the country compared to the concessions granted to it.
On local content in relation to manpower, administrative manager Peter Benny said that of AGM’s 810 employees, over 600 were Guyanese. “AGM has 32 expatriates on site and they include nationals of the Caribbean, North America and South America.” Of the 25 senior managers at AGM, 16 are Guyanese. He said, “We expect that in the next couple of months the number will increase to about 1,000 as we expand the mines for stripping and mining. There will probably be another 160 to 170 employees.”
Expatriates were few, he said, because AGM has benefitted from the training given to ex-Omai Gold Mines employees who are now working there.
On the trucks that Guyana Goldfields brought into Guyana on concessionary terms and which were the subject of a recent media report, Benny said, “Every time we buy a new truck, we have to hire three people. If we buy 50 trucks we have to employ 150 people.”Apart from major machinery and equipment which had/have to be imported, he said, AGM has over 650 constant suppliers of goods and services that include large medium and small businesses. The more well-known are Toolsie Persaud Ltd, Gafoors, Rubis, JAPARTS, MACORP,
Farfan and Mendes and Cevon’s Waste Management.
Corporate Responsibility Officer Leon Roberts said that small suppliers from its exploration days have grown along with the company simply by supplying it with foodstuff. Ninety eight percent of fruits, vegetables, meat and other foodstuff are bought locally. Global Seafoods Distributors, he said, was one such company. Its first order was from Guyana Goldfields, the owners of AGM. AGM has been supporting small/medium enterprises through training programmes aimed at customer support and “enabling them to grow beyond our company,” Roberts said.
At present, he said, AGM “is the biggest supporter of the mining and geology programme at the University of Guyana with students being allowed to get a first-hand look at a mining operation that is world class in terms of safety, orderliness and cleanliness.
Apart from also partnering with every government-run technical institute in the country, he said, they have enabled students from the Carnegie School of Home Economics to do catering attachments. “We ended up hiring them.”
He said the eight percent royalty that AGM paid Government last year was US$23 million from 160,000 ounces of gold and that figure is expected to be higher with its projected target of 200,000 ounces this year.
Income taxes from employees are significant and they have paid to NIS, he said, almost US$15 million for employees. “We pay all withholding taxes and soon we will start paying other taxes from which we are now exempt.”
He added, “It is not fair to call our names in the way it has been called”.