President agrees to some initiatives to assist miners – joint approach needed to fight crime in mining areas

Georgetown, GINA, January 6, 2014

 

President Donald Ramotar this evening attended the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association’s (GGDMA) first meeting for the New Year at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street where he recommitted his Government’s support to ensuring sustained viability of this vital industry.

Also present were Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, who paid key attention to the issues that, were raised by the Association and by the miners themselves.

President of the GGDMA, Patrick Harding informed the Head of State of some of the pressing challenges that the industry is facing with the fall of gold prices on the world market. He said many miners are now struggling to find ways to cut back on expenses.

President Donald Ramotar interacting with miners

In some instances, miners who cannot meet their deadlines in terms of installment payments have had their excavators repossessed. The Association is requesting of the Government of Guyana to make some immediate interventions, to bring some relief especially to small and medium-scale miners.

Some of the requests include:  duty waiver on fuel, reduction in the cost of rental of properties and claims, duty-free concessions on 4×4, four-door vehicles and mercury-free technology, and more police outposts and better management of ranks stationed at the existing ones.

A miner raising a concern during the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) meeting at Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street

Interventions

In responding to these requests, the President said he will be ensuring that the relevant ministries forge closer relations with the association’s executive body to deal more effectively with issues, and to determine what assistance the Government can render.

With regards to miners who are experiencing difficulties in terms of having their equipment repossessed by the banks, the President said that the Government will try to intervene to bring some relief to affected miners.

He pointed out that situations like these highlight the need for hire purchase legislation in Guyana and assured that his Government will be taking steps in this regard.

In terms of the cost for reclamation, the President reminded of the importance of environmental issues, and said that there are enormous benefits to accrue from sustainable mining practices and protection of the environment.

“We have already started to work to create nurseries…we will help those very small miners to reclaim so that they wouldn’t have that expense. The GGMC will be part of that. For the medium-scale people we will try our best to provide the materials for them to do so, but the large miners will have to do it themselves,” the President announced.

He also committed to granting duty-free concessions to miners for the acquisition of new technologies that will minimise, if not eliminate, the use of harmful substances such as mercury in the sector. He also informed that his Government can positively consider the reduction of property rentals.

As it relates to duty-free concessions for the four-door pickups, he said while the matter can be favourably considered, this will be done on a conditional basis in terms of gold declaration and taxes that must be paid for workers at mining camps.

President Donald Ramotar and executive members of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) after the meeting at Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street. Also in photo are Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Persaud (extreme left) and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh (second from right-front row)

Crime and security in mining areas

 

Crime and security was another major issue that was raised, and Harding said that the mining industry has lost many miners to this scourge.

President Ramotar stated that this matter is indeed one that is of great concern to his Administration and gave the assurance that he will arrange for an early meeting among the leadership of the mining industry and the Guyana Police Force, and the Home Affairs Minister to ensure that all suggestions are taken onboard.

“This is an area that needs maximum cooperation, where we can work together to fight against the criminal activities that have migrated into the interior, and we must deal with it as fast as possible to prevent it from getting worse,” the President said.

Committee

 

There was a call for the processing of work permits for Brazilian miners to be more expeditious, and the Head of State said that foreign miners do make a valuable contribution to the industry and once they adhere to the laws of the country, the Government will do all that it can to ensure that the process is not frustrated or stymied.

The President directed that a small committee be formed through the subject minister, members of the Association and miners to negotiate and discuss further the other issues that were raised.

Meanwhile, President Ramotar expressed the hope that the current world market gold price will be a temporary situation, and that the price will rebound in a few months. He commended the miners who have been focusing on diversifying into other areas of the productive sector, so that they are not solely dependent on gold mining.

He emphasised that sectors such as tourism will become more and more important in the near future and an even bigger contributor to the country’s economy. By diversifying their economic activities and providing new goods and services are the best ways that the resources that are finite can be maximised, he stated.

Last year, the industry had a record production of 481,100 ounces of gold. It is the largest foreign exchange earner and plays a pivotal role in the country’s overall development. Additionally, the gold mining industry creates over 60,000 jobs directly and about 150,000 indirectly; catering for both skilled and semi-skilled workers.

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