Govt. announces land, special incentives for small miners

Government yesterday announced plans to set aside significant tracts of land for small gold-miners, assuring that the industry remains a top priority for the administration, allaying fears of widespread changes. Speaking to members of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) yesterday, President Bharrat Jagdeo made it clear that while not much change will be coming to the industry, there will be no tolerance for any “wild west” situations. As a matter of fact, the Head of State was not against the possibility of opening the entire country to mining, once it is done in a controlled and sustainable manner.

There had been suggestions from some miners that 5-10% of Guyana’s lands should be made available for mining activities. Small miners can now organize in groups and approach government for assistance, it was announced. The meeting yesterday would have come almost 20 months after worried miners met with the President in February 2010 at the International Convention Centre to discuss a contentious proposal of six months notice to regulators before the commencement of operations. That issue was not raised yesterday during the meeting at the Regency Suites, Hadfield Street, in which the President was the guest speaker.

Miners had shut down Bartica, a key mining area up the Essequibo River, in January 2010 over fears that the six months notice, if implemented, could effectively shut the industry down. The President had met with the miners days later and tasked a stakeholders’ committee to examine measures to better regulate the industry. The government has since late last year been studying the proposals contained in that committee’s report.

NO INCREASE According to Jagdeo, his administration was reluctant to rush any recommendations through because of the possible controversy. Making it clear that there will not be any new increase for small miners in royalties and other taxes, Jagdeo disclosed that large-scale mining companies will come in for different arrangements as Guyana must benefit. This was the recent case with Canadian-owned Guyana Goldfields Inc. in which the company will have to pay a 5% royalty for gold produced under the 1,000 ounces mark and 8% for declarations above that. The President hinted that similar agreements will be made with any large scale investors in the mining industry.

According to Jagdeo, there will be many “rumours” in the “backdam” over changes and political parties will promise the “moon and stars”- the reality is that there are no increases in royalties and taxes by this government or under the next PPP/C administration. Acknowledging the difficulties miners face in operations – blindly not knowing whether they would strike – Jagdeo assured that moves are underway to produce a mineral map of Guyana, in collaboration with large-scale mining companies. But the outgoing leader noted that gold and diamond mining were not the only areas that had potential.

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