President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Mr. Andron Alphonso and members of the Executive body, President of the Guyana Women Miners Organization (GWMO) Ms. Urica Primus, President of the National Mining Syndicate (NMS), Ms. Cheryl Williams, small and medium scale miners, especially women miners, special guests, members of the media, welcome and thank you for allowing me these few minutes to greet you.

I wish to take my time this morning to reflect on the journey we have travelled together and to assure you of Government’s commitment to support the mining sector as we move forward. First, I submit to you that everything begins with a vision. Whether it is starting a business, building a home or doing something that has never been done before, we must first see it, believe it and then work towards it. This is even truer in the mining sector, as each of you individually and collectively, have a vision that you believe in, and you are already working towards achieving.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Government by extension, also has a vision for the mining sector, because we see mining as an essential part of the fabric of who we are as Guyanese and as an important pillar in the

nations development. This has been so for over a hundred years. Government’s support is therefore a given because we believe, that mining is a noble profession that once done well, will continue to yield tremendous benefits for miners at every level and for the nation of Guyana. We see mining as viable and sustainable even as it stands up to international standards.

Judging from the theme of this Symposium: Reduction in Mercury and Better Recovery, with a focus on improved recovery technologies and systems, higher production and reduced use of mercury, you share a similar vision for the sector. The theme not only speaks to your recognition of the importance of adapting and adjusting to new realities, but your willingness to follow through with action. I applaud you for taking this bold step to consider alternatives to mercury as part of the vision you see for the mining sector. Permit me to note, that Government has accepted a suggested proposal from mining stakeholders to embark on a joint project that will test the practicality and viability of alternative methods of gold recovery, in line with our commitment to the Minimata Convention.  We have also committed to assist miners both financially and with technical assistance where possible, to transition to safer methods that are identified. Though change may seem challenging, it is inevitable and we must adapt to new realities, if we wish to grow. Our collective vision for the sector requires us to do so even as we strengthen what is already in place.

Our actions to date more than demonstrate our commitment to the vision of providing an enabling environment that supports miners in their endeavours, while strengthening and reinforcing our pledge to safety and sustainability, in tandem with our environmental goals. Record gold declaration figures of 3,068,648 ozs from 2015-2019, that generated revenue of USD$3,792,066 dollars is noteworthy. The efforts which underpin these declarations, are best understood by a reflection on some key areas of achievement in the last five years.  To date, GYD$ 7,720,173, 818 (7.7 Billion) has been invested to build, rehabilitate and maintain interior roads for easier access to mining lands, while seasonal maintenance of roads in areas that have been a challenge traditionally, has improved. For example, in 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources took over responsibility for maintenance of the Linden to Lethem Road, resulting in significantly reduced downtime for miners plying their trade. Other key road works completed and ongoing include:

  1. Region #1: Rehabilitation of the road from Wanaina to Yarakita, the M4 Junction to Noseno Road, as well as maintenance of the road from Manaka to Karrau  (region 1 to 7).
  2. Region #7: Rehabilitation & maintenance of the road from Itaballi Landing to Puruni Landing, Puruni Landing & Pappyshou, and Granny Road to Waiamu Landing.
  3. Region #8: Rehabilitation of the road from Mango Landing to Mahdia.
  4. Region #9: Construction of the road interlinking Amerindian Villages in North Rupununi (Rodeo Ground to Centre) – Complete, additional work to be done.

Additionally, the Ministry has:

  1. Created a more enabling environment for miners, by granting tax concessions on machinery, equipment, fuel and vehicles for small and medium scale miners, a reduction in the Tributor’s Tax from 20% to 10% and a sliding scale percentage based on the price of gold, which replaced the 2% of gross proceeds. This was facilitated by MOU’s signed between the Ministry of Finance and the GGDMA and GWMO respectively, for a duration of 2 years instead of annually.
  2. Facilitated more access to land for mining, through mining lotteries, the Syndicate initiative and the Closed Area Committee (CAC). For 2019 alone, over 550 blocks of land have been allocated through lotteries and Syndicates.
  3. Approved the conversion of several medium scale-prospecting permits to mining permits.
  4. Set up a grievance desk to hear and respond to the concerns of miners.
  5. Initiated training for first time and seasoned miners and stakeholders.
  6. Initiated and significantly advanced the process of restructuring for all Natural Resources’ agencies, to facilitate more efficiency in transactions, access to data and payment options for miners.
  7. Updated and in some cases, expanded legislation and policies to reflect the realities of mining. Consideration is also being given to policies on river mining, restoration and proper care for the environment, within the scope of the laws of Guyana.
  8. Placed strategic emphasis on security through the establishment of the Corps of Wardens whose mandate is to ensure better governance and compliance within the sector. The Corp currently has over 40 well-trained wardens, dispersed in the hinterland to police the full gamut of the natural resources sector.

Further, consistent, favourable gold prices have put more cash in the hands of miners and expanded benefits individually and collectively. This is best understood by an economic concept called “inelasticity”. Normally, when demand for a commodity increases, it drives the price of that commodity up. The high prices forces demand for the commodity down and thus the price falls again. However, with inelasticity, when high demand causes prices to go up, demand stays constant thus keeping prices high. In the mining sector, as the price of gold has gone up, demand for gold has remained high, and this continuous high price has allowed miners to retain more profits.

Therefore, I assure you, that there is no need to fear or be anxious about your future, and the future of the sector. While the heavy emphasis on oil production may have caused some angst among us, I remind you that the publically stated goal and intent of His Excellency, David Granger and the Government, is to use our revenues from oil production to strengthen our traditional sectors so that all remain viable in tandem with other new and emerging ones. Only two (2) days ago, the GGMC in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, announced that this year’s hack-a-ton slated for March 13-15, will focus on developing software to respond to the needs of miners. We look forward to its outcome and to implementing technology that further advances the efficiency of doing business in the mining sector.

I also look forward to hearing of outcomes and suggestions from today’s Symposium that we can incorporate to continue along the path of transformation that we have started. I wish you the best in your deliberations today, and take a moment to thank the GGDMA, GWMO and the NMS for their consistent commitment to the development of the industry and to representing the concerns of miners. I believe we have had very good relationships even when we disagreed and I thank you for remaining engaged.

I end by saying that your vision for the mining sector is safe with us and I encourage you to stay the course so that together, we can see the entire vision come to pass.

I thank you and God Bless You.