Gov’t investing in mineral mapping, reforestation – Min Bharrat

The sum of $3 billion has been approved by the Committee of Supply for the Ministry of Natural Resources to advance the government’s thrust for responsible management of its natural resources.

This will result in the ministry ensuring the protection and conservation of the environment.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat fielded questions from the opposition parliamentarians on Wednesday where he stated that this year will see more emphasis placed on maintaining Guyana’s environmental credentials.

Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat

Budget 2024 has allocated some $400 million to commence the mineral inventory process in the country’s mining districts to facilitate strategic mining and added benefits for medium and small-scale miners.

Mineral mapping is a low-impact mining technique that refers to the process of identifying and mapping the distribution of minerals in a given area or region.

It involves the use of various techniques and technologies to detect and analyse the presence and abundance of different minerals within the earth’s surface or subsurface.

This process will assist in identifying areas that hold mineralisation potential, to avoid aimless deforestation by miners.

Minister Bharrat said that this is a much-needed project, as part of the commitments outlined in the Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030. He expressed that a project of this magnitude is costly, ranging from US$30 million to US$40 million. Hence, this year’s allocation provides for the commencement of the first phase, which will target gold, diamond, and critical elements, such as lithium. 

“We know that lithium is in big demand across the world. Last year’s production for lithium was just about half a million tonnes, and the demand was 3 million tonnes. So, it is a much sought-after element around the world and we know there are few countries in South America producing lithium. We believe that there may be a possibility that we have that critical mineral here too,” the natural resources minister explained.

This first phase will focus on the main mining districts, such as the Mazaruni, Puruni, and North-West Districts.

“It will seek to assist us in allocating in a more informed way claims and mining blocks that have evidence of mineralisation rather than to award blocks or claims that we have limited or no data on, or the data is outdated or old, thereby reducing significantly deforestation,”

Additionally, the project is expected to reduce the cost of prospecting or exploration for small and medium-scale miners.

“As we know, medium and small-scale mining in Guyana is done only by Guyanese miners. So, it will assist the sector a great lot, as well as keep our commitment to a low deforestation rate…. once we can complete the mineral inventory and have an updated mineral inventory, then we can point you in a direction where there is mineralisation, maybe 90-95 per cent. there is no need to go destroy any other part of the forest” he explained.

Meanwhile, an allocation of $300 million will provide for land reclamation and reforestation. Last year, the project commenced and advanced significantly in Region Ten, employing over 100 persons in the region, according to the minister.

This year, it will be advanced in regions eight and one.

“This is especially in the Mahdia area, where there are significant mined-out areas close to the township, and also in the Matthew’s Ridge area. This will help significantly to boost our capacity as a green country, our forest coverage, and in the long term, add more carbon credits to our already verified credits by ART-TREES,” he said.

In 2022, Guyana made history as the first country to receive carbon credits specifically designed for the voluntary and compliant carbon markets for successfully preventing forest loss and degradation — a process known as jurisdictional REDD+.