Hon. Raphael G. C. Trotman, MP. Minister of Natural Resources Closing Remarks at Bauxite Symposium for Centennial of Bauxite Mining in Guyana, Linden Constabulary Hall, Linden
Ministry of Natural Resources, Guyana, October 26, 2016
The year 2016 signifies an iconic landmark in the still-unfolding story of bauxite mining in Guyana as we proudly celebrate 100 years of this glorious industry. This provides an opportunity for all Guyanese to commemorate a century of rich history that is marked by numerous accomplishments, continuous expansions and notable challenges. Bauxite production in Guyana is one of the leading mineral sub-sectors, and accounts for a significant part of the GDP generated from exports of the mineral. It is safe to say that the mining of bauxite has been one of a very few indelible influences that have shaped the way we think, behave and live as a people. Thanks in large measure to bauxite mining, we have been imbued with a sense of pride that couples, and equals, our keen determination and sense of capability. Indeed, it is in these hills that previously unaccomplished feats of engineering and strength were achieved and mastered. Today, one hundred years after we began, much of that history is at risk of being lost and too, that sense of pride and prowess has retreated. Government and Opposition, the companies, the unions, and most especially, the workers must all commit – jointly and severally, to keeping that history and “can do” attitude alive.
The theme of today’s event, “Is Bauxite going to be an economic pillar for Guyana for the next centennial?” is very apt and timely. Research has confirmed that there is an average of 100 more years left in the region’s reserves. This calculation is positive for residents of Region 10 and all Guyanese. And now, 2016 has thus far seen an increase in production of bauxite by some 38,000 tonnes as at September 30, in comparison to the same period last year; current total is 1,138,182.80 tonnes. However, for us to continue to benefit from the Bauxite Industry, we must reflect on the successes and failures of the industry and implement measures to transform the industry, utilizing new technologies, and thus increasing production figures and value added products .
I would like to use this opportunity to reflect on a few notable achievements in the evolution of the bauxite industry in Guyana. Early bauxite discoveries of the late ninetieth and early twentieth centuries, led to the official commencement of bauxite mining in 1916 at the “Three Friends” Mine, Upper Demerara – Berbice. Bright prospects led to the construction of long term infrastructure in the form of a bauxite processing plant at Mackenzie and a 9 mile long railway and steam-driven locomotive system. Operations were widened to forty miles south of Mackenzie to the Ituni area. This expansion, coupled with the demand for Aluminum driven by World War II, led to record production. Another defining moment in the history of the sector was the construction of the Alumina refinery in 1961. The sector has transitioned from being nationalized to being completely privatized between the 1970s to early 2000s and to what and where it is today.
Our Bauxite industry has benefited from more than US one hundred and eighty million dollars (US$ 180 million) in Capital Investment between 2005 – 2014: Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. capital investment (2005 – 2014) was US$ 92 million, Bosai Minerals Group (Guyana) Inc. capital investment (2005 – 2014) was US $ 88 Million. In terms of job creation, more than one thousand persons are directly employed by the two (2) operating bauxite Companies: Bosai Minerals Group (Guyana) Inc. directly employs 545 persons while the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. directly employs 524 persons. The Government of Guyana is pleased to see that the two Bauxite operators have announced a move to grant its employees tax-free overtime which was a burning issue that the companies tried to settle for a long time and workers were expected to take strike action. Indirect employment offered by the bauxite companies would include the many contractors providing a wide range of services to the bauxite companies. Meanwhile, First Bauxite Corporation, a Canadian Company was granted a 50 year land lease through its local subsidiary- Guyana Industrial Minerals Inc. and they have completed and submitted a Technical Report on the Feasibility Study for the Bonasika Proppant Project in Essequibo. If approved, it would be Guyana’s third Bauxite Mine in operation.
The sector has been instrumental in the development of Guyana’s economy and has supported livelihoods and capacity building in addition to numerous other achievements. However, world market prices coupled with other externalities have affected trade and the industry is in need of creativity and innovation to improve efficiencies and competitiveness. It is against this background that the Ministry of
Natural Resources will, in keeping with a Manifesto commitment, review the sector by Commissioning a “high level technical team to develop plans, including, in the first instance, the commissioning of a feasibility study for mine development and the construction of an international scale alumina refinery in Linden, as part of the strategy to forward integrate the bauxite industry while transforming the economy of Region 10.” (Pg 28)
Please allow me at this most appropriate forum to announce the convening of this expert Bauxite Sectoral Review Committee to assess the bauxite industry and offer recommendations for the feasibility of an Alumina Plant. The Committee is expected to commence work in November 2016 and conclude by February, 2017. Collectively, these individuals represent decades of combined management, and leadership expertise in Guyana’s bauxite operations. Mr. E. Lance Carberry, and Mr. Sylvester Carmichael will headline the review and will be supported in their work by representatives of the Regional Administration of Region 10 – Upper Demerara-Berbice, the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GBGWU), and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). Given the national significance of this exercise the Government will once again be inviting the Opposition to participate, and is hopeful that, on this occasion our entreaties will not be rebuffed.
The Committee will make recommendations for regulatory and other changes to enhance the GGMC’s operations vis-à-vis bauxite exploration and production, and revisit the age-old question about the feasibility of an alumina refinery.
The Government of Guyana wishes to sincerely thank and proudly salute all those who have worked over the past 100 years, in varying fields in the bauxite industry. We also thank and express the nation’s profuse gratitude to those who are currently working to make this industry a success. We remain committed to supporting the industry so that all stakeholders and Guyanese can be proud of the sector.