Miners boycotted Mining Week, says Gov’t failing industry

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Increased taxes and fees along with empty promises are just some of the reasons why miners across the country boycotted Mining Week 2017, a major calendar event, to send a message to the government that they are up in arms with the way the industry is being governed.

According to a joint statement from the Guyana Gold and Diamond Mining Association (GGDMA) and the National Mining Syndicates, there is nothing worth celebrating as the government is “failing the mining industry daily” through its lack of policies and proper management at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).

“All that seems to happen is the Government is taking more and more from the sector and gives nothing in return. When last has the government done something or anything for the Gold and Diamond Mining Sector?” the major representative groups expressed in the statement.

Instead, the bodies said the local mining industry has suffered the ire of more taxation, more fees, false promises, and the deliberate and continued withholding of cost saving policies traditionally enjoyed by miners.

“The spirit of the thousands of miners and their workers are at the utmost low, many miners are demotivated and wanting to close their operations, while others are not reinvesting and are simply going through the motion to pay their bills. This is what this Government has done to the gold and diamond Mining Sector,” the groups argued.

The organizations explained that they have been petitioning the Government for more than a year to resolve numerous issues, all of which still exist while more have been recently added to the ever-growing list.

One of the major issues, the statement noted, is the “gross incompetence, insubordination, and irregularities at the GGMC.”

“Miners have to wait for hours and don’t even receive a feedback on their business transactions. They are also often pushed around in a rude manner when inquiries are made,” the bodies said, noting that the staff needs to be more friendly.

The bodies also asserted that the chaos at the level of the GGMC Board is contributing to the poor management of the sector.

“There are major frictions at the level of the GGMC Board between directors, this only adds to the chaos, to get less work done and wastes more time. Board Meetings are now about personalities, they should be about issues, mining issues. This needs to be addressed by the subject Minister with urgency,” the bodies said.

The groups also alleged that there is skullduggery at GGMC. “When upgrading your licenses, there is skullduggery going on at GGMC where the size of your land is being adjusted downwards without being informed. This Conversion issue has pointed to real estate deals at the GGMC.”

The absence of the National Mining Policy, enactment of back door policies without proper consultations, promises not being delivered to small scale miners, poor infrastructure, and the overall general neglect of the industry other concerns of the two mining representative entities.

The groups expressed disappointment in President David Granger for not keeping his word he made as Leader of the Opposition in a speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday 8th April, 2014 said

“The ‘frontier conditions’ which are tolerated in the hinterland are the result of a combination of executive ignorance and administrative incompetence. They have had catastrophic consequences for those who live and work there and have divided the country into two – the more and less-developed regions. The negligent and absent-minded approach to the way the hinterland must be changed if our citizens – East and West of the Essequibo – are to enjoy a good life,” Granger had said.

Below are the other issues raised in the statement by the GGMDA and the National Mining Syndicates:

Absence of the National Mining Policy

The Government of Guyana has not stated its National Policy on Mining. The GGDMA at each of its televised fortnightly program has called on government at all levels for it to make its policy clear on mining, but to no avail. The GGDMA along with other mining bodies ask the question; What does it takes to get this Government to act and ensure that the policy on mining are publicized and explained to miners? The GGDMA has called the government through its televised program, through newspapers advertisements, through letters to the subject minister, and even at the level of the President of Guyana. What will it take this government to act in the interest of small and medium scale gold mining. It is indisputable that the GGDMA has called upon miners to pay their taxes, royalties, rentals and obey the law and have led the way as good corporate citizens, already reflective in the continuous high level of gold declarations by the small and medium miners.

The enactment of back door policies without proper consultations

Six ‘6’ Months’ Notice is Back; The GGDMA was never consulted on the 6 Months’ Notice by the GGMC or any other government agency. The GGMC has put a system in place that will further suppress our miners. GGMC seems to be colluding with other agencies to accommodate loggers instead of Miners. Of recent the GGMC has indicated that it will now be taking the Commission six [6] months to convert a permit from prospect permit to a mining permit. The GGDMA finds this policy as outrageous and unacceptable, we therefore ask the question, Is the GGMC and the Government of Guyana serious about business, serious about local investors, serious about Foreign Direct Investment? It does not seem so from their policies.

Permission to Work; there is a turf war going on at the GGMC, which causes simple things to take very long at the Commission. Permission to work should be automatic, but because of poor management it is dragged through and tied up in red tape.

Promises not delivered to small scale miners

Lands for National Mining Syndicates; Each syndicate is only being given 10 blocks of land, this cannot meet the demand for land by any syndicate. Some syndicates are large with some as much as over a hundred members. How are they going to share these lands when many of these miners also have their own equipment. There are cases where individual syndicates have paid for these 10 Blocks but are yet to receive it with months having gone by.

Horrid Infrastructure

Deplorable Roads and Bridges that miners have to use daily; Miners continue to pay Billions of dollars in royalties on Gold and rental for mining properties and see no direct benefit. One would think that the reasonable thing to do is to allocate a percentage of the royalty and land rentals for infrastructural development in the mining sector. This is not so; all these funds are send to the consolidated funds and are used to develop other sectors whilst the mining sector continues to labor under poor conditions. Currently most of the roads used by the mining sector are in a deplorable manner since little or no work is done by government on these roads for the past four years. The GGDMA would like to see a proper budget and work plan in place to address interior roads being included in the National Budget 2018.

The Government of Guyana has been recently consulting with the GGDMA on what roads and bridges the association would like to see address urgently. Our question to the Government is what roads and bridges have the government repaired or maintained in the interior that was a direct benefit to the mining sector in 2017 so far?

General neglect of the Industry

The GGDMA is disappointed in the manner in which the Sector has been neglected by those in authority. On the other hand, it is the very sector that has been the back bone of Guyana’s Economy over the past ten years. How sad? The GGDMA further asks the question, “Is this the better life that was promised to our Miners, who makes tremendous sacrifices and contribute so much to Guyana’s economy?” Is this the industry that the Government of Guyana expects to carry Guyana’s economy through to 2020?

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