Guyana Goldfields revamps country office

-729 Guyanese currently employed

Scott Caldwell

Canadian miner, Guyana Goldfields Inc (GGI) yesterday announced the restructuring of its country office here as well as the promotion of several locals to top positions in the company.

“These transformational changes, which are consistent with our Aurora Gold Mine strategic plan established last summer, will strengthen our presence in Guyana and further enhance our operations,” Scott Caldwell, President and Chief Executive Officer, was quoted as saying in a press release yesterday. “These restructuring efforts complement recent initiatives undertaken to strengthen the management team, refocus exploration efforts and advance corporate governance,” he said.

GGI, a Canadian based mid-tier gold producer, operates the Aurora gold mine in Region Seven here. The company is currently embroiled in a stakeholders’ feud with a group led by former Executive Chairman Patrick Sheridan seeking to have the current Board of Directors ousted, having accused them, among other issues, of being responsible for the loss of over CDN$1 billion in shareholder value since 2016. In calling for a special shareholders meeting, Sheridan has also cited “serious and legitimate concerns about the current Board’s lack of relevant management expertise, irresponsible and potentially misleading statements to stakeholders, questionable decisions and operational blunders.” The meeting has since been fixed for May 22.

GGI’s statement yesterday said that as part of the ongoing restructuring programme launched on July 30, 2018, the company has promoted 60 Guyanese nationals into senior roles. It highlighted the promotion of Guyanese Jermaine Critchlow, as Sustainabi-lity Manager for Guyana; a role previously held by an expatriate. Further, another Guyanese, Miranda La Rose, has been appointed as Corporate Social Responsibility/Sustainabi-lity Coordinator for Guy-ana. La Rose was formerly a senior journalist with Stabroek News.

In addition to realising operational efficiencies, GGI expects these changes and the new local leadership will further strengthen its presence in Guyana and its good relationship with the government, the statement said.

It also highlighted that as part of the restructuring, the company has reduced its expatriate workforce by 14, representing approximately 30 per cent of the total expatriate staff. Total employment post-restructuring consists of 729 Guyanese nationals (representing approximately 96.4 per cent of the overall workforce) and 27 expatriates, the statement said while adding that the Aurora Gold Mine is one of the largest employers in Guyana.

As part of the restructuring, the statement noted that all of GGI’s and Aurora Gold Mine’s activities in Georgetown will be managed out of a single office in the country, which will increase synergies and efficiencies while reducing costs. The second office located at North Road has been closed and Country Manager Violet Smith is leaving the company as her position has become redundant.

Government relations

The statement said too that former US Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, who weeks ago was appointed Senior Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Affairs, has assumed responsibility for all activities involving government relations in Guyana, as well as corporate social responsibility. He will also provide assistance on key in-country management issues as needed. 

In further highlighting its commitment to the Guyanese workforce and Guyanese business, the company said that the recently promoted 60 Guyanese nationals are taking on critical positions in management, senior operations leadership, technical, administrative and exploration. “This demonstrates the company’s commitment to develop its Guyanese workforce through the continuing transfer of skills and technology, while reducing the use of foreign nationals in the operation of the mine, mill and support services,” the statement said.

It noted that GGI remains strongly committed to Guyanese businesses and social responsibility. “As part of this commitment, the company purchases goods and services from more than 250 companies and individuals in Guyana and maintains parts of two major interior roads leading to the mine site that are also used by the local miners, loggers and others for personal and business activities,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, as it relates to exploration, the company recalled that during the second half of 2018, management made a strategic decision to refocus exploration efforts on the high quality near-mine brownfield targets that will potentially provide the greatest opportunities for near term growth. “This resulted in the net reduction in the total exploration team of 45 employees (of which 7 were expatriate geologists), as the company temporarily closed distant field camps at Iroma, Wynamu and Arangoy, which have been placed on care and maintenance.  The company intends to resume its greenfields exploration in the first half of 2019,” the statement said.

It noted that as part of the restructuring efforts to focus on brownfields exploration, the seven expatriate geologists were replaced with two new expatriate hires. The remaining 32 members of the exploration team are Guyanese nationals (94 per cent) in keeping with the company’s commitment to source skilled local employment. The team consists of seven geologists, one data technician, 12 core technicians, and 14 drill contractors. For the 2019 campaign, the company expects to hire an additional three geologists, six technicians and two data clerks, the statement said.

The company noted that it has appointed Guyanese Boaz Wade as Exploration Leader effective January 1, 2019. Under his direction, GGI has already made considerable advances in the appreciation of the geology and gold mineralization at the Aurora Gold Mine, the company said. 

It added that GGI continues to execute its four-point strategic plan for Aurora, which includes Health, Safety, Security & Environment; License to Operate; Engaged People, and; Operational Efficiency and Optimization. The company expects that this new, focused strategy developed in the fourth quarter of 2018, and the restructuring announced yesterday, will deliver significant benefit for Guyana Goldfields, its shareholders and the people of Guyana, the statement said.

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