A new plant and a new pursuit
A new bauxite mine is to be established in Guyana by 2015. Guyana knows Linden and the Upper Berbice to be the bauxite zone with Linden being the hub of the largest bauxite operation in the country.
In the history of the local bauxite industry there have been all the excavations and developments in these major areas. There was an operation at Berbice Mining Enterprise at Everton, East Bank Berbice, but that was mainly a holding area for bauxite shipped from the Upper Berbice locations.
We all came to believe that when the bauxite deposits in those locations dwindled the nation would have seen the end of bauxite mining in this country. And that was nearly the case. Guyana was known for having the shallowest bauxite and that made the operations extremely profitable when compared to the rest of bauxite producing nations.
But the time came when Guyana had to dig deep mines to reach its bauxite. This additional cost began to affect competition and bauxite slumped.
Today we hear that Guyana has a bauxite belt that stretches from the Pomeroon right across Guyana to Orealla. This tells a tale of large deposits that offers hope for the continued existence.
However, the government was either incapable of exploiting these new deposits or did not feel confident that any investment to make the bauxite industry return to profitability was not worth the effort.
However, a Guyanese who moved to Canada some years ago is coming back. He not only used modern and sophisticated technology to determine the size of the deposits, he also used local scientists under the leadership of another Guyana, Neville Clementson, a geologist.
Not only is the face of the bauxite landscape changing, the mere idea that one could see a large plant along the Essequibo River is heartening. Not only is there to be the plant, there is to be the creation of so many jobs that there is likely to be an explosion of employment.
Over the past few years we have been critically examining the level of skills being produced. We concluded that Mathematics and the sciences were among the subjects that were failing to attract students. The pass grades in these subjects were low and they raised fears that Guyana would have had to recruit science-minded people.
It has taken the introduction of a new bauxite entity to let the nation realize that it still has a cadre of scientists who can undertake sophisticated jobs. This one entailed investigating the extent of the deposits.
The mineral analysts came from the University of Guyana, the Linden Technical Institute and other training institutions. They used a piece of sophisticated equipment with a minimum of training. They found the deposit and they identified the site for the new bauxite plant.
This is not unusual but coming as it does at this time it sends a message that all is not lost with those who have pursued studies in the sciences.
The problem is sustaining such knowledge. The new bauxite plant will suffer no shortage of skilled labourers. It will also suffer no shortage of mid-level skilled personnel. However, with the construction of a plant that is not only environmentally friendly but one that is designed to harness bauxite dust and process the ore in conditions never before introduced in Guyana would need technologically savvy people.
There was a time when the bauxite company produced its own scientifically competent individuals. The sugar company does this. But to get into the institutions that train people in this direction required some knowledge of science.
It is here that we should see less talk about what is to be and more action on what is happening. There is going to be need for many engineers at the new plant and given the shortage in Guyana we expect to see many coming from Canada. Then there is going to be the continued hue and cry that our people are not being employed where the money is greatest.
It all begins now. There must be a concerted effort to prepare the scientists of the future.