May 16, 2012 News
…local consortium proposes refinery
By Leonard Gildarie
An age-old practice by holders of large and medium scale exploratory permits to allow illegal gold mining has drawn fire from government quarters.
During a luncheon in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud, said it is a major issue being tackled by his newly established Ministry.
Some of the companies involved in the illegal act are prominent ones and the guilty parties could very well face sanctions and see the seizure of the Prospecting Licence, Persaud warned yesterday during a session with reporters and stakeholders at the Sleep Inn Hotel on Brickdam.
According to Persaud, there is clear evidence, via written agreements and otherwise, of the illegal actions.
In most cases, it is the Brazilian miners who are allowed to operate on the exploratory concessions, thanks to the facilitation of the permit holders. The practice has been ongoing for some time now and it is clear that the companies, “clearly not fly by night ones”, are encouraging the illegality, Persaud said.
The admission of this latest reported illegality would come weeks after government announced a crackdown and raids on camps in the hinterland to stop illegal mining.
Several infringements, including poor records, environmental problems and absence of working permits were found. The raids will continue, the Ministry announced last week.
Also at the luncheon yesterday were Chairman of the GGB, Gobind Ganga, General Manager, Anantram Balram, and several board members.
According to Ganga, while annual declared declaration of gold between 2007-2010 was 276,000 ounces, last year this went up to 363,084 ounces. Average earning during that period was over US$247M but this doubled to US$517M last year.
This year, the target has been set to 370,000 ounces, the Chairman disclosed, noting that GGB is continuing to examine its policies in a growing sector.
Meanwhile, in his presentation, Minister Persaud admitted that the GGB is limited in its reach throughout Guyana, with offices currently only in the city and Bartica, Region Seven. Plans are in place to establish offices in Port Kaituma, Region One, and Charity, Region Two. An office at Lethem, Region Nine, a border point to Brazil, is also being considered.
The gold board, which is responsible for the buying of 75% of the gold declared across Guyana, is now looking to halt what is called leakages…gold being produced and not being declared so as to evade taxes. Then, there is also the smuggling. Authorities estimate that between 150,000-300,000 ounces of gold is slipping through the cracks annually, although it is difficult in the absence of hard facts.
There are also plans to tackle this by increased monitoring, meetings and even talks with the neighbouring countries over border control.
According to Persaud, government is also considering a proposal for a gold refinery that was submitted by a local consortium. Guyana is currently selling its gold to the Royal Canadian Mint and Mitsui Global Precious Metals.
A study to identify the problems in the gold mining sector is being commissioned, the Minister disclosed. The idea is to identify the problems and establish proposals to deal with these.
Meanwhile, Persaud yesterday expressed concern over reports of some level of dishonesty and accountability at the GGB, stressing the matter is being placed on the table since it is a national issue and should not be covered up.
Overall, the gold sector is very promising, with US$400M in investments likely for an operation at Toraporu, Region Seven, a project that is likely to be larger than the Omai Gold Mines.
The Aurora gold project, Region Seven, is also likely to see a US$600M investment while the Mahdia Gold Corp is expected to sink millions into the Omai area.
Yesterday, the Minister, while admitting the problem of illegal mining with non-nationals and especially Brazilians, pointed out that they have brought modern technology, with the extraction process being vastly improved.
However, he warned, regulations must be followed and everyone, including Brazilians, have to comply.
Already, authorities through the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) have seen a rise in the number of Prospecting Licences being granted and moves are underway to process 1,200 claim applications.
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