By Isanella Patoir
The Bonasika Bauxite Project was officially opened along the Demerara River on Thursday.
U.S. bauxite company, First Bauxite (FBX) and its subsidiary Guyana Industrial Minerals (GINMIN) have invested over US$100M in the exploration and development of the area to mine bauxite.
The approximate 13 million tonnes of bauxite found in the Bonsika project is of the highest quality in the world, executives of the company said. Products made from the bauxite lasts longer, it has low contaminants and high in aluminum. This type of bauxite is also found in the Corentyne area in Guyana.
While the mines have a lifeline of 15 years, the company believes it can last for 25 years.
Over the 15 years period an estimated US$387M will be injected into the economy.
Operations began at the Bonasika Mine 7 on January 1 this year after the company had been drilling for over 10 years.
Chief Executive Officer for the company, Bill Rice, said while the government has no shares in the company, they are committed to paying royalties and taxes.
An estimated US$50M will be paid to the government in taxes over the 15 year period.
“The government does not have any equity in GINMIN or First Bauxite; however as part of our agreement we do pay royalties and as well as all taxes and fees that are required and we see that as good partnership with the government and our goal is as we continue to grow our business and grow the value of what we sell, we are happy to pay as much royalties as possible,” Mr Rice said.
Mr Rice said the company is committed to ensuring that Guyana receives the most value possible and also support the country and help the economy grow.
He said they are also committed to safety and environmental compliance with both local and international standards.
“One of the ways that we want to show the respect that we have is to make certain we are giving all the people that work for us are given opportunities to grow and develop to their full potential, we think that’s one of the areas that we can help them. We can help the country and we can help ourselves by allowing people to learn, to be able to take on new skills, new responsibilities and continue to grow,” Mr Rice said.
Chairman of the Board at the company, Thibault van Stratum, noted that there are encouraging signals from markets in Asia, North America and Europe for the quality of the bauxite at Bonasika.
“Guyana has a history of supplying premium grade bauxite acroos the world. Now when we talk about First Bauxite it’s not only premium grade, it’s the best its early days but we are very encouraged about the signals we are getting from the market,” the Chairman said.
To get to the mines, the main mode of transport is through the Demerara River by boat to the small community of Sand Hills; and from there it’s a 30 minute drive.
Workers spend two weeks in living quarters in Sand Hills and then are off for one week. Currently they are 95 permanent workers, 130 contracted employees and eight expatriates. 240 persons are expected to be hired as the production expands.
They are two medical centers on site with three medical personnel.
Minister of Finance Winston Jordan told the company that profit is not only derived from the resources but also the people.
“I am happy to hear that you don’t have any labour relations problem and you need to keep it that way, because the less downtime you have is the more you add to the bottom line,” Jordan said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman said the bauxite industry helped in the development of the country. The Minister said the government welcomes investors who are committed to developing a qualified workforce.
“We welcome investment that is mutually beneficial and believe that foreign investors, such as First Bauxite, can help us achieve our objectives by bringing much needed technological innovation and investment to develop a qualified local workforce,” he said.
Minister Trotman said they will continue to expect high standards from the company while operating in Guyana.
As it relates to production, the bauxite plant can produce 1000 tonnes a day and about 30, 000 per month.
A pilot scale production was done in 2019 to start developing the market for the bauxite and so far have supplied over 20 000 tonnes of bauxite. The target for the year is 320,000 tonnes.
Also attending the ceremony was Prime Minister Moses Nagamoottoo, Commissioner of Guyana Geology Mines Newell Dennison, Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission Gavin Agard, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and management and staff of FBX/GINMIN.