The History of the GGDMA.

The GGDMA was formally founded in 1984. It was registered with three trustees, Victor Daniels, Sanislaus Jardine, and Joe DeAgrella, under the Business Registration Act Chapter 9005. In 1991, the organisation changed status and registered under the Trade Union Recognition Act as a collective negotiating organisation for gold and diamond producers. Its current trustees are Cyrilda DeJesus, Edwards Shields, and James Krakowsky.

The GGDMA was formed in response to Government reforms in the late 1970s that severely impacted the gold and diamond industry. These reforms were done in response to an ailing government-­‐led economy that had suffered severe losses in the agricultural and bauxite sectors. From the mid-1970s, the Burnham administration began relying more on revenues from gold to support the national economy; and it was believed that considerable revenue, some 60-­‐70%, was lost from gold illegally exported out of the country.

The Government sought to increase national revenues from gold by amending the royalty rates charged on gold and diamonds from 50 cents an ounce to 5% of the value per ounce of gold and from one dollar per carat of diamond to 3% of the value of a diamond. It was mandated that gold and diamonds could only be exported through national banks, unless the minister in charge of the industry gave special exemption. The Government also established the semi-­‐autonomous Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to develop, administer, and regulate the mineral industry.

From the commencement of these reforms, the government increasingly embraced command and control management measures to bring gold declaration in line with production. Through (Amendment) Act 13 of 1981 of the Mining Act, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) was established as the sole monopolistic purchaser of gold. Other legislative amendments, Mining (Amendment) Act 19 of 1983 and Act 10 of 1984, ushered in severe punitive measures for miners suspected of not declaring their gold. These measures alarmed miners and many began lobbying the government in small groups. It was suggested that miners formed themselves into a single body to make representation to the Government.

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) was founded over thirty years ago in 1984. Since then, it has been recognised by industry actors, successive Government administrations, and other stakeholders as the body representing the gold and diamond industry, particularly small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). The organisation has an impressive record of achievements. It works collaboratively with Government at all levels and it is represented at all major stakeholder forums dealing with mining and related hinterland issues.

It is fair to say that the GGDMA is the most dynamic and successful non-­‐governmental organisation representing a business sector in Guyana. It is distinguished from peer business organisations in the country by its level of effort, consistency, and focus as well as its tenacity in defending miners’ rights, financial stability, and ability to achieve policy decisions and other administrative decisions in the interest of its constituency. It has worked through a model of public-­‐ private partnership with Government that is applicable to other sectors in Guyana and elsewhere.

From its inception, the GGDMA was able to achieve meaningful benefits for the mining community as a whole as well as the country. Mining enterprises have become accustomed to the GGDMA’s success such that their expectations have remained very high despite significant changes that have been sweeping across the industry making representation more complex and challenging. The national context has also been changing with evolving ideas about national wellbeing, especially as it pertains to sustainable development.

The gold and diamond industry has grown significantly in size and has also diversified in types of producers and scales of production in the last two decades. Since the 1990s, there has been an influx of Brazilian miners and mining also moved from river on to land predominantly. Whereas river mining required a threshold capital investment that served as a barrier to entry, land mining accommodates a wide scale of production from manual methods and production using small pumps and ground sluices to multimillion dollar heavy equipment mining. This, along with low capital barriers to entry afforded by such schemes as hire purchase on excavators has resulted in rapid growth and diversity of the mining industry, especially in the post 2008 gold boom that lasted until gold prices fell sharply in 2013.

This rapid diversification has resulted in different subgroups of producers with common but also differentiated interests. There are:

  • Artisanal miners that search manually or use gold detectors and manually extract gold;
  • Micro-­‐miners mostly from hinterland communities that use mostly small 3-­‐inch pumps and ground sluices;
  • Small Miners that operate “bare dredges” without the aid of excavators and ability to construct tailings ponds for their mine waste. These comprise some 49% of the industry;
  • Small Miners with mostly one but a maximum of two dredges/crushers that they operate with excavators that they either own or rent. This is the second largest group of producers;
  • Enterprises operating 3-­‐10 dredges/crushers; and
  • Enterprises operating more than ten dredges/crushers, with some having more than 20 operations in different parts of Guyana. The diversity in the industry presents a challenge for any organisation that exists to represent an industry as a whole.

In addition to industry transformations, external forces have also been shaping the GGDMA’s context. There has been increasing attention to environmental impacts and many measures to regulate the activities of the industry. There has been a strong lobby and Government commitment to providing land titles for indigenous communities, many of which are in areas where there exists mineral properties held by non-­‐ indigenous miners. In addition, the country committed to a national Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which significantly impacts the mining industry. The political landscape is also shifting around the GGDMA with a new Government administration replacing one that was entrenched for over two decades. This is inherently bringing changes in national priorities and the institutional landscape. There appears to be a more proactive Government approach to managing the industry for more sustainable and equitable outcomes.

The external changes around the GGDMA that have been increasing the complexity of its work have been coinciding with internal transformations that began in the last decade. The first is the death and/or retirement of a number of the first generation of leaders and transition to a second wave of leaders, though some of the older leaders remain actively involved on the Committee of Management. It is well documented that the riskiest time for any organisation is when it experiences external or internal change. The GGDMA has been experiencing both at the same time and in many ways is at crossroads. Many of the approaches, systems, and procedures that may have worked well for it in the past may need to be altered to suit its present and future challenges. It also needs requisite technical capacity to address the challenges facing the industry. The time is opportune for the organisation to examine its circumstances and chart a path for the future.

Despite its challenges, the GGDMA remains the body recognised by Government, the majority of the mining community, other stakeholders in civil society, the donor community, and the public at large for its achievements to date. It is also recognised for the important role it has to play in the future of Guyana’s small and medium scale mining industry, and, in turn, the country’s national development. However, with the shifting external and internal environments, the GGDMA needs support to develop additional capacities in order to effectively address the challenges now facing the industry and country. The organisation has already demonstrated a model for public-private partnership in its impressive lists of achievements for industry and country gained through constructive engagement with Government. The vast majority of stakeholders interviewed in this study expressed the belief that improvements in the mining industry were of a very high national importance and that the GGDMA was best placed to provide leadership for a transition to better technologies and social, environmental, and business practices. In addition, stakeholders also indicated positive support for any initiative to help strengthen the GGDMA’s capacity.