In the wake of a scathing attack by the GGDMA on the government, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) on Saturday said that the miners’ body has to decide “whether it is a political pressure group and a body representing the interests of an elite group, or a partner in national development”.
On Wednesday, in the wake of the killing of a miner at Puruni by a policeman, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) issued a strong condemnation and also severely criticised the government on its stance over the industry.
It also said that more than three years later, President David Granger is still refusing to meet with the largest private sector employer in the country.
“The GGDMA notes the current level of impunity in which brutality and neglect is allowed to be meted out to members of the mining industry.
The ongoing neglect of the backbone of the Guyanese economy has not gone unnoticed. When the Minister of Finance takes to the media to bemoan and lament the dismal performance of the Guyanese economy, he must address the outstanding issues under his portfolio that are negatively impacting the industry and then look squarely in the face of his colleagues who, for the last four years, have mismanaged and neglected the industry which carried Guyana on its back. No one in the Government is doing anything to help miners, they are just applying pressure. We are demanding our respect”, the GGDMA said in what was the most severe attack by the miners body on the government since it took office over three years ago.
In its statement on Saturday, MNR said it had taken note that “very emotive language” was employed to describe the current state of affairs of the gold mining industry and to condemn the killing of the Brazilian miner at Puruni.
“The Ministry, as does all of Government, is concerned by the recent killing of the miner by a member of the Police Force and is satisfied that charges have been laid against the … officer (in question). We trust that there will be an expeditious and fair hearing to determine all of the relevant facts and that justice will be served”, MNR said.
On the matter of the purported failure of Government to address the concerns of the industry, MNR said this was untruthful.
“The miners in particular, and the public in general, will recall the numerous efforts made by various Ministries to support the mining community by providing greater incentives for fuel and spares, granting duty-free concessions, assisting with the establishment of the National Mining Syndicate (NMS) and providing mining lands to name but a few of the initiatives that have been introduced and are ongoing”, MNR said.
It added that on June 20, 2018, several Cabinet Ministers met with members of the GGDMA, the Guyana Women Miners Organisation and the NMS to discuss concerns and hindrances to production and agreed a menu of measures to be implemented. Even now, Cabinet is considering one such proposal raised by the GGDMA, MNR said on Saturday.
“The GGDMA speaks of respect and yet has publicly challenged the President on issues such as mercury eradication following his attendance at the First Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, and given ultimata for a meeting to be held. The Government of Guyana takes issue with the insinuation that the GGDMA has been disrespected by it and wishes to place on record that it endeavours to treat respectfully, all persons, group and organisations In its interfaces. Respect begets respect and if respect is demanded, it first has to be given and be deserving”, MNR said.
The statement added that the government appreciates the nervousness of some miners that the emerging green economy and imminent oil production will displace their standing. MNR said that it wished to assure that the gold mining industry will “remain an indelible feature” of Guyana’s economy.
“It is time the GGDMA decided whether it is a political pressure group and a body representing the interests of an elite group, or a partner in national development. The Government of Guyana waits with great expectation for meaningful and respectful engagement, and meanwhile, will continue its efforts to ensure a better organised and regulated mining industry”, MNR said.