Guyana Goldfields Inc will from September 1st 2018 lay off about 80 exploration employees from its Greenfields, Region 7 prospect as the company has scaled down work at that location and is focusing on basic exploration drilling in areas immediately contiguous to its Aurora gold mine.
But the Canada-headquartered company says that while some persons will “of course” lose jobs, they are examining ways to have the Aurora company absorb some of the laid off workers.
“We have put our exploration operation on care and maintenance and the workers that work with them, we are trying to absorb them into Aurora,” Country Manager Violet Smith told Stabroek News yesterday, when contacted.
“We have Aurora and then we have Greenfields where we work like in places such as Whynamo, Iroma and Arangoy. We are not doing those, we are focusing more on Aurora. So we are focusing more in the Aurora area… we are not doing Greenfield explorations in the near term“, she added.
Smith said that the company has not yet officially met with the workers to provide details and will be doing so sometime this week. “We have not yet met with the workers yet, this week as they start to come out we will be explaining to them fully. They work on rotation at Greenfields in the Potaro,” she said.
Up to February this year, Guyana Goldfields said that it had over 700 Guyanese in its employ and this comprised 96% of its total employees.
An employee of the company told Stabroek News that the company began laying off workers last week and that close to 100 staffers will be affected. He said that most of the employees are from the exploration department of the company and are mostly drillers, geologists and exploration staff.
“Termination letters have already been issued to these categories of workers, most of whom comprise exploration staff from St. Cuthbert’s Mission in the Mahaica River, Santa Mission across the Demerara River from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Moruca in the northwest. The dismissals take effect from the beginning of September,” the employee said.
Most of the geologists are expatriate workers who are already preparing to leave the country but the employee pointed out that the termination of the drillers and other exploratoration staff will be tough on families of workers from the three Amerindian communities, as many had been employed there for several years.
“I think what is happening is that the new management does not appear to have the same level of commitment to the Com-pany like those who were there from the beginning in the mid-90s. This is a most unfortunate development,” said a senior official at the Aurora plant.
In July, the board of directors terminated Company founder Patrick Sheridan Jnr as its executive chairman and switched him to an ordinary member of the board. Sheridan had been enthusiastic about exploration prospects at several sites away from Aurora but Management said that it will not only realign its dual reporting structure and streamline communications but will also basically confine exploration to near-mine sites.
On July 30, the board of directors of GGI announced the appointment of independent director, René Marion, as the non-executive Chairman of the Board. “Patrick Sheridan Jr. has been terminated by the Board in his capacity as Executive Chairman, effective immediately. Mr. Sheridan will continue to be a member of the Board”, the company said in a release.
“The Company has substantially evolved since its founding into a sophisticated mid-tier producer that requires an effective management structure. The Company intends to realign its dual reporting structure and streamline communication with a single reporting structure to CEO, Scott A. Caldwell. The Company also intends to prioritize its effort to maximize production from the Aurora Gold Mine, focus on near mine exploration opportunities until mining operations are optimized,” Marion had stated in the July 30th release.
The release said that Marion has over 30 years of diversified management and senior technical experience with resource industry expertise in operations, mineral exploration, and mine development, along with a successful history of corporate development. He currently serves on the board of Superior Gold Inc. and was most recently Director and Chairman of Richmont Mines Inc. Marion has been a director of GGI since 2013.
Sheridan’s termination came even as the company announced that its gold production in the second quarter for the operations at Aurora, was less than the first quarter of the year.
In a second quarter earnings conference call with bankers on July 31st, Caldwell said that the company sold about 31,700 ounces of gold in the second quarter compared to about 37,000 ounces tin the first quarter.
“Recovery is going up. Grade is improving. So I think we are back on track. We’re going to have a very strong third quarter and an even stronger fourth quarter,” he said.
Meanwhile, the company has revised its 2018 production target to about 175,000 to 185,000 ounces of gold down from 200,000, he said. Its production for 2017 was 117,002 ounces.
On gold production being below target in the second quarter, Caldwell said in the conference call from his Thomas Street office, “it was an isolated one-time event primarily due to issues in the mining operation.”
The recent developments will not affect plans by the firm to transition to underground mining in the coming months.
Caldwell had told the earnings call that the company had requested proposals from several international contracting groups.
“We will get those proposals back in the middle of August. The idea is to have that group mobilised and begin working on our underground development with a single heading drive out of the Mad Kiss portal area targeting to get below Rory’s Knoll over the next couple of years.”
More mining equipment has been ordered. Initial mining equipment was bought a year ago. “It’s been shipped. It should arrive shortly. So basically the contractor mobilization will be people. We have all of the gear LHDs (load, haul and dump) jumbos et cetera to begin that work. We will use all our equipment to get started and then mobilise some more equipment”, he said.
When the company talks about mobilisation, it might be mobilising about 20 to 30 people, he said. “Unfortunately there are no experienced underground mining people in Guyana, and so we will start with expatriate labour and slowly transform to Guyanese operations as times goes by,” he said.
Earlier this month, Guyana Goldfields has said that it was considering hiring some of the laid off sugar workers.