Remarks by Hon. Raphael G.C Trotman at the
GGMC Awards Ceremony to celebrate Mining Week 2019
Savannah Suite, Pegasus Hotel
Monday August 26, 2019
Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Mr. Stanley Ming, Commissioner of the GGMC, Mr. Newell Dennison, Directors of the GGMC Board, Representatives of Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, Guyana Women Miners Organization and the National Mining Syndicate and other stakeholders in the sector, staff of the GGMC and the Ministry of Natural Resources, members of the Media, a warm welcome to you.
I feel a deep sense of pride and consider it a privilege to be addressing you at this Award Ceremony, which also marks the opening of the Mining Conference that will be held here over the next two days. I believe the theme for Mining week 2019: “Fostering Respectability and Responsibility in Mining Conduct’’ is quite fitting and I am happy that the GGMC has chosen it since I believe it speaks to the kind of sector we envision in Guyana and also reminds us that mining can be a “respectable” vocation when done in a “responsible” manner. We are not unmidful of the hardships, challenges and even, at times, disappointments, but I intend, in my remarks this morning, not to dwell on the challenges or dark stains some insist on placing on the industry and it’s regulation, but instead, to look at the positive developments we have witnessed in a few short years. The gains we have made in the mining sector are quite impressive.
We have come a long way from the days of river mining when the only means to recover gold was by diving down under the river waters, using only a suction hose to breathe, then digging by hand with a hand spade, filling bags and sending the earth back to the surface. This was an extremely dangerous endeavor and many divers lost their lives. So too, have we progressed from the shovel and battel only, to the excavators and 100 tonne trucks feeding automated crusher systems. In the 150 plus years of organised mining in Guyana, the industry has grown leaps and bounds and continues to rapidly expand, without losing efficacy and relevance even as the black gold of oil is about to flow. So much so, that I am extremely confident that oil will draw parallel, but never replace mining for its importance and value to the people and culture of Guyana.
Today the mining sector has become more efficient and effective beginning at the exploration stage where cutting edge technologies have helped eliminate some of the risks associated with prospecting. Lidar surveys, satellite imagery, improved geophysical and geochemical analysis allows for multi- element recognition which means that even before one spade of earth is mined, a miner can be assured of the potential returns on his and her investment. I know, we still have many traditional ‘Porknockers’ and small miners in the sector and we continue to appreciate their sacrifice which adds significantly to gold declarations.
I believe we are getting better at what we do in the sector. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, as the main regulator of the mining industry has begun to embrace a technological transformation that has seen the development and testing of an E-services platform that will significantly improve the application process for mining lands. Further, I am told that the Information Technology and Communications Division (ITC) is working on several initiatives to improve the internal efficiency and interconnectedness of GGMC Divisions including enabling access to interconnected information from external agencies, the creation of a Mobile Information System Platform to more effectively track and report on issues encountered in the field as well as a mineral processing survey tool to collect and analyze how miners are making use of improved recovery techniques. Expanding payment options to include Mobile Money and PayPal Online Services to provide more options to pay for services at the GGMC are new initiatives planned for the near future.
The mining sector is also becoming more environmentally conscious. In the early 90’s there were few regulations governing environmental management. In fact, then the rivers were considered as suitable dumping grounds for waste materials coming out of mining. Today, we are more aware that clean water is one of our valuable natural resources and it is our responsibility to keep both the rivers and the forest in a manner that allows them to retain value now and for future generations. We have also made significant progress in reducing the use of mercury in small scale mining by working with our partner agencies to closely monitor mercury imports and use. Just last Friday, at the Ministry’s pre-mining week symposium, I was pleased to hear of the potential of integrating the collection and use of mining and forestry data to better monitor our resources and to now include considerations for our water resources as well.
Our regulatory framework is also improving. We are revising the mining act, to allow for better management of our mineral resources and restructuring the GGMC to focus more on geological and mining activities. That contract has been signed and the inception report is expected within a week.
We were also able to significantly expand access to lands for small miners by facilitating four (4) mining lotteries in Georgetown, Mahdia, Port Kaituma and Bartica and they have reciprocated. I also wish to announce that preparations are in place for a mining lottery to be held in Mahdia in the coming weeks. For the first half of this year, the mining and quarrying sector is estimated to have grown by 2.6 percent. This was fueled by a 4.4 percent expansion in the gold sector. Further, every month for 2019 has shown increased declarations above what was projected, and all miners must be congratulated for this, particularly given the extended wet season we experienced this year, which, usually limits production.
I believe some of our larger producers will be awarded later in the conference. Today especially, we have every reason to be happy. The price of gold has held steadily at over US$1500 for the past week and is expected to rise even further in the coming if the world’s largest economies continue on a confrontational path, and other exogenous shock reverberate globally. While we take no pleasure in profiting from the agonies of others, we are not unmidful of the goodwill that is flowing our way, and we are very grateful.
We tend to focus primarily on gold when referring to the mining industry in Guyana, since it contributes greatly to our economy. However, mining in Guyana is more than gold, and in the future, I envision more emphasis being placed on “other minerals” as well as bauxite, sand, stone, and rare earths, as our economy expands and Guyana becomes better known and more attractive to investors. Even now, the industry needs to be diversified even as we experience a rapidly expanding construction industry with the need for construction minerals and industrial minerals to support our domestic market.
We believe forums such as these are key to ensuring that the mining industry in Guyana is in constantly need of growth and change. The industry is changing, and we must change and adapt new and sustainable approaches as well. I also wish to remind us of His Excellency’s adumbration of this administration’s five (5) pronged policy for mining, which he outlined in September 2015, and which, I recently shared at the GGMC Luncheon held in July. These are –
(1) Improved infrastructure development.
(2) Improved security and human safety.
(3) Improved health and environmental security with a mandatory process of land reclamation and reforestation.
(4) Improved law enforcement.
(5) A modern, safe and technologically advanced gold mining sector.
We can declare without fear of successful contradiction that we, both the Ministry of Natural Resources and GGMC, working in tandem, have made significant advances in these areas.
- We have ensured readiness for first oil in a record breaking 48 months.
- increased annual gold production from an average of 450,000 ounces in 2015 to an average of 660,000 ounces in 2019.
- Established the National Mining Syndicates body to ensure that small miners have a level field to compete on.
- Waived taxes on fuel, tools. and small-scale mining equipment.
- Enabled the entrance of a third bauxite operator in First Bauxite Inc. and seen the start of production in Bonasika, Region 3.
- Formulated a 10 year development plan for the mineral sector and conducted a feasibility of the bauxite sector including, the construction of an international scale alumina refinery.
- Embraced a greater appreciation for the environment and the enhanced the role of responsible, sustainable and safe mining practices.
- Completed an expert review of all the laws and regulations pertaining to the natural resources sector – from petroleum exploration and production -to- the purchasing and trade in gold.
- Commenced a nation-wide geological survey to assess and quantify our mineral wealth, and soon we will be retrieving and storing in hard and electronic formats, in a specially built core shed, all of the data from geological surveys l done in Guyana – both on and offshore.
- We have commenced the modernisation and restructuring process for the GGMC to make it modern and technologically adept and responsive to the coming explosion that we are about to experience.
I also assure you, that as Minister of Natural Resources, and on behalf of the Ministry, and the Government by extension, we are proud of your progress and we look forward with great excitement and expectation as we continue to support your evolution to becoming the preeminent force in the mining industry. I wish you a successful conference – one filled with meaningful discussions and purposeful outcomes.
Thank you and May God continue to bless you and keep you and the great industry that you are placed to oversee.