Govt wants all Guyanese to tap into mining wealth

Government is seeking ways in which the success of the gold and diamond mining industry could be shared by all Guyanese, and according to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud, it would be engaging various stakeholders with the view of making land for mining easily accessible to small miners.

“We have recognised that we need to ensure that there is some level of equity in the development of the mining sector. Equity in terms of access to our mineral properties… When I go throughout the country or even right in Georgetown, young people, persons with limited means, they would say well what about us? The women too, they would say what about us getting involved in mining and how it is we can be part of the success story,” Minister Persaud said during his speech to open
Mining Week 2012 on Sunday at the National Park. Mining Week 2012 is being observed under the theme “Investment and Technological Growth for Sustainability in the Mining Sector”.

Persaud noted that government would be engaging individuals and organisations to have special arrangements where particularly small miners can have access to property for mining so that they do not have to depend on persons who have large mining property. “… also how it is in a much deliberate way that we can get more Guyanese involved in mining, but at the same time ensuring that those who have access, to give them that opportunity so that they too can feel, see, experience, the benefits of the mining sector.”

Persaud did not go into specifics, but said the initiative was very important to the social and economic well-being of the country, and it is a “part of the overall initiative that we are going to be doing, working with all in ensuring that we have the type of benefits and the of returns that we have for the sector”. The gold mining industry in particular is at the peaking point with the soaring price for gold on the world market, and Minister Persaud noted that the window of opportunity must be capitalised on.

He also noted government’s full support for the continued development of the industry, and added that there would always be differences, but the important thing was how the differences were settled. Minister Persaud said all stakeholders and persons affected by the industry needed to be included in all decision making, regarding the sector and similarly in ironing out differences.

Quoting figures to prove that government was aware of the significant contribution that mining sector makes to national development, Minister Persaud said the sector is critical to the national economy. Guyana, he said, is famous for its refractory grade bauxite, the highest grade of bauxite, and is the world’s 12th producer of bauxite, 17th producer of gems and industrial diamonds; and the 30th producer of gold. Stone and sand are also produced, mainly for the domestic industry, as well as loam and occasionally, clay. Bauxite, gold and diamonds are exported and have contributed 58 per cent of total export earnings and 11 per cent of the GDP in 2011. He added that across the nation, the mining sector employs 13,000 people directly, and a further 19,000 in support industries.

The National Park is the venue for a mining fair as part of the week of activities for mining and, according to Minister Persaud, the purpose of the fair is to demystify some of the myths of mining and to allow miners and other interested persons to understand the technology, process and opportunities in the sector. Acting commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Karen Livan said Mining Week 2012 should be used as an occasion to pause to reflect on the achievement of the mining sector and where going it is in terms of its goals, challenges and opportunities.

Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association President Patrick Harding said the theme for Mining Week 2012 was most applicable since small and medium scale miners are encountering challenges to grow and develop, and need to lean on new technology to be on top of their game.

He noted the need to find an alternative for mercury use in mining by 2013, and the need to find ways of improving recovery systems as some of the challenges miners are currently facing. He also called on government to provide training for small miners so that they could develop their operations. Harding revealed that the GGDMA has recognised that with the expansion of the mining industry, the body needs to restructure to better represent miners. He said the GGDMA has already embarked on that course.

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