…Asserts Government’s commitment to ensure survival of the industry
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, in a press release, stated that “contrary to what various paid advertisements have been proclaiming, Government has been working and continues to work for the steady and sustained development of the small and medium scale gold and diamond mining industry.”
He said that Government has been recognising and applauding the contribution of mining to the economy and has always been concerned about the well-being of all in the industry and the families they support.
Prime Minister Hinds verified that the Special Land Use Committee (SLUC) established by President Bharrat Jagdeo to address concerns and problems encountered by miners, did not complete its deliberations and as such no report has been made.
He dismissed the paid advertisement posted in the April 2 edition of the Kaieteur News as misperceptions, misunderstandings and misinformation that is seeking to stop any change and one that is advancing the agenda of the larger miners whilst recruiting the smaller miners as foot-soldiers.
“It is the misunderstanding, the misinformation, and the resistance to change inherent in these paid advertisements which, if they succeed, will destroy small and medium scale gold mining by closing the minds of unsuspecting smaller miners to any advances,” the Prime Minister said.
The small and medium scale diamond and gold mining sector encompasses miners who would recover from 10,000 ounces to 20,000 ounces of gold per year.
The PM affirmed that Government, whilst keeping its doors open to any organisation, has not only refrained from exploiting differences, but has also sought to maintain harmony among all the small, medium and large scale miners for their development as well as the development of Guyana.
Responding to the May 2 edition of ‘Peeping Tom’ in the Kaieteur News entitled “Rich Man, Poor Man” which speaks about the danger of the concentration of land-ownership and wealth among a few, the Prime Minister said that Government has made known generally and to the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) in particular, its proposals to put practical limits on the number of leases at each scale which a miner may hold during the prospecting stage at any time.
“The government has made it known that it is enforcing existing regulations and introducing a standard, legally-binding contract to be entered into by both parties and which is to be lodged with the GGMC,” he said.
Mr Hinds emphasised that if large miners are truly interested in the well-being of small miners they should welcome and comply with the regulations.
In addition, Government will continue to offer a defined, small number of leases to miners, even though many such properties are traded to larger miners.
“While Government recognises the contribution of a number of Guyanese miners holding a large number of leases in pursuing and attracting foreign investors, it must express its concern that certain attacks in the GGDMA paid advertisement seem to be motivated by some larger miners who want to be the only “door” through which foreign companies are to get mining lands in Guyana,” he said.
Government is of the view that the mineral endowment should be for the benefit of all Guyanese.
“The revenues flowing from mining must benefit all the people including miners, in the provision of education, health services, water and other such amenities,” he stated.
The PM maintained that the $1.8B in revenues from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) referred to by the GGDMA as being “taken away” by the Government, was directed towards the improvement of hinterland roads, which serve mainly miners.
In response to reference that none of the Norwegian money will go towards mining and miners, PM said that Government will be using funds to prepare Guyanese for an economic future diversified away from high-carbon economic activities.
“Mining and miners cannot stand still, holding on to what was and what is, but must keep moving and evolving, as mining is a primary example of working a resource, he urged.
He noted that the recent call for a six-month period was not a call for a ‘waiting period but rather, it was a call for an essential change to thinking and planning ahead for six months or more instead of a week or two.
The proposal of the GGDMA for mining at a yearly rate of 0.256 percent to an accumulation of four percent of the forest area is a ‘close out’ of small and medium scale mining in about 16 years.
On the other hand, Government’s proposal to keep 100 percent of the forests open to sustainable mining, meeting appropriate environmental and restoration standards is a much surer and practical bet, the PM posited.
He said that there is contradiction inherent even within the calls of these paid advertisements; there is the call for “scores of exploration crews to do widespread exploration” and yet apparent scorn of another country which has so graciously undertaken to identify the various mineral reserves.
“The Government reserves the right in the national interest, to accept assistance from any who knows how and who is capable and willing,” the PM asserted.
Responding to the advertisement’s reference to Amerindian lands, he said that changes in attitudes to the hinterland and Amerindians living there may well be the greatest change required.
“There is no hiding from the fact that until a few decades ago many miners did not see the hinterland in the same way as they saw the coastland in which they lived and regard any rights they have as subordinated to their mining rights,” he said.
He further stated that Government has no apologies for its programme which has assigned 14 percent of Guyana’s surface rights to about 100 Amerindian villages.
This places Amerindians in command of the surface use of this land and does not grant small and medium scale mining without agreement to those villages.
“Government recognises how unsettling it is to miners in the challenge to adopt new thinking, and the challenge, uncertainty, and anxiety in learning new ways. Government is therefore being patient and counsels patience,” he said.
The PM urged that all must guard against any degeneration into disorder.
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