Miners float placing portion of sector’s revenues in community funds

-as sector policy plan underway

Consultant Sherwood Lowe making his presentation on the mineral sector policy framework

As a part of the planned 10-year national mineral sector policy framework, miners across the country have proposed that a percentage of the government revenues collects in taxes and royalties from the sector go directly to the regions to cater for community specific projects.

“Similar to the Amerindian Purposes Fund, where part of the royalties government receives goes to this fund and many of these communities can access the funds directly for small project[s], we recommended that all the mining regions must have a fund that is topped up from royalties, where the RDCs, NDCs and villages can access for particular purposes,” University of Guyana Senior Lecturer and lead consultant on the National Mineral Sector Policy Framework & Actions (NMSPF&A), Sherwood Lowe, on Friday said.

“Small capital projects, such as fix a bridge/build a bridge …small projects so that people would see a link with mining in their backyard and the direct benefits of that link,” he further explained.

The Ministry of Natural Resources on Friday held a meeting at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, where Lowe presented on the draft plan, and open discussions were held with stakeholders who contributed to its development. The draft plan has been made public for review and input and the ministry has said the final document will be made available by March.

It was through outreaches and meetings with stakeholders, including the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) and a number of civil society organisations and individuals, that recommendations were gathered and some formulated into the document.

And while there were no representatives from the EPA at Friday’s forum, Lowe explained that they played a key role in the development of the policy document. “Many of these issues involve the EPA. They are given due regard in terms along with GGMC to get these policies implemented. You can’t have mining without strong environmental components. The EPA is front and center for many of these ideas,” he said.

While formal recommendations were received from a number of associations and two international bodies, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) did not provide any, but rather, held a meeting with the consultants. At this meeting, they shared and discussed a number of concerns and pointed out ways that the document could address those.

Lowe said that it was from a regional meeting in Linden that the idea of the regional fund was floated and they subsequently received the same recommendation from other persons. “In Linden, for example, there is no visible link. The government must redirect some of the royalties and taxes to [these] small regional funds, which must be well managed, of course. With strict guidance on what the money must be spent on. That is the idea. That idea came from Region 10—Mr. Morian pushed that point. It is not like you are transferring all the royalties and whatever. You can make a decision and say you are going to transfer x dollars a year to this regional fund. In a similar way, that money is given to the Amerindian population fund. It is not all, it is a portion, be [it] ten, twenty or five million a year,” he said.

Another recommendation from stakeholders was that Guyana have an Inspector General’s office for the mining sector, as many miners have lamented the sloth in dealing with their complaints against officials and processes in the sector.

Lowe explained, “The same way you select a person for the Public Procurement Commission or for the Ethnic Relations Commission through a parliamentary mechanism, we are proposing that same mechanism be used to pick the Inspector General to ensure some level of independence and multi-stakeholders agreements.”

Asked the reason why such an office was proposed by stakeholders, he added, “It is the millions of complaints and the biggest one is, ‘I have been waiting 10 months, one year and I ain’t hearing back nothing about my complaints and that kind of thing.’ So you need authority and pressure from GGMC to go and follow up on these matters and report back to the complainant. A man must not have to wait seven, 10, or 12 months without hearing or getting any feedback. You need an authority to quicken that process. Main complaints are about corruption, unequal treatment and just slowness,” he added.

The policy document proposes that the functions of the Inspector General be similar to those of United States Federal Inspector Generals.

“A U.S. Federal Inspector General (IG) is the head of an independent, non-partisan organization established within each executive branch agency assigned to audit the agency’s operation in order to discover and investigate cases of misconduct, waste, fraud and other abuse of government procedures occurring within the agency. Within the federal agencies are politically independent individuals called Inspectors General, who are responsible for ensuring that the agencies operate efficiently, effectively and legally,” website thought.co explains.

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, although barely audible during his presentation on Friday owing to a throat condition, echoed most of what he had previously said about the purpose of the document and thanked the participants for their contributions, even as he vowed that their works have not been in vain and the document will not be just another piece of paper that is put on a shelf.

Trotman said that he took a “hands off” approach with the project to allow the consultants to have uncensored interactions with stakeholders and was pleased with the feedback, although there are recommendations critical of him.

Lowe said that the final call for submissions closed last year but as the consultants worked with stakeholders, after that process, changes were made.

In November of last year, Lowe had explained that they had a first draft which comprised five broad policies. Those five broad policies birthed 32 strategies, which in turn birthed over 100 action measures. “What we have done is we have put the policies, strategies and action measures under an umbrella – Optimising Governance, Optimising Compliance, Optimising Performance,” he said.

He further noted that heavy focus has been placed on small and medium scale miners, which suggests that they should be seen as an integral and important part of the national mineral sector.

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