In the face of accusations that it is shortchanging the local aviation sector by using a Canadian Company to shuttle between the coast and its mine site in Region 7, Aurora Gold Mines (AGM) has stated that the aircraft used is its own and it is utilized in conjunction with local charters.
The Kaieteur News has reported that the Twin Otter plane AGM claims to have purchased is actually owned by Canadian Flyers World Aviation Services. The newspaper referred to a full-page advertisement in which AGM states that the aircraft was purchased because using local airlines became too expensive.
AGM responded in two separate press statements yesterday which stressed that the aircraft is owned by the company but is leased to Canadian Flyers World Aviation Services.
The mining company also noted that it continues to require local charters operating out of the Eugene F. Correia Inter-national Airport with internal records indicating that from January 1st 2018 to May 31st 2018, local carriers hired by AGM made 131 trips to transport personnel and goods into its Aurora Project.
“The registration to 2225692 Ontario Inc./CDN Flyers World Aviation Services is standard practice in the industry especially when a company signs an “exclusive use contract” which dedicates the AGM plane to its own exclusive use. In that Agreement Canadian Flyers, based on their extensive and current experience with this type of aircraft was given the responsibility for the management and operation of the aircraft. In the exercising of this responsibility they supervised the refurbishment of the aircraft and the movement of it across international borders,” the first statement explained.
The second statement accompanied a purchase agreement which shows that AGM bought the aircraft in January 2016.
“To this date AGM has always retained ownership of this aircraft since its purchase,” it concluded.
In both statements the mining company notes that it has made significant efforts to source and hire qualified local pilots and maintenance personnel, explaining that three local pilots were hired and two local pilots are in the final stages of their re-certification process to enable them to be fully certified Twin Otter pilots and will continue to advance their aviation careers with AGM.
Further, AGM states that additional efforts were undertaken to assist local students with maintenance training and one AGM employee is in the advanced stages of completing maintenance certification to international standards.
The managers of Guyana Goldfields Inc – the operator of the Aurora mine – have recently stated that 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.
The revelations were made against 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.
Early last month Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman told the managers and the media at the AGM camp site 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.”
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 better 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.