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Govt tones down gold hoarding accusations; opens up new mining lands

Left to Right: Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Joslyn Mc Kenzie; GGMC Chairman, Clint Williams; Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud and GGMC Commissioner, Rickford Vieria.

The Guyana government on Friday stopped short of saying that it has backed down from its accusation that gold hoarding by miners was responsible for a slump in declarations.

Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud at one point questioned whether he had previously attributed the decline in gold declarations to hoarding.  When told that President Donald Ramotar had made such a statement, the Minister insisted that it was too early to arrive at such a conclusion now because the latest figures were being assessed. “At this point in time, I would say that we are doing some assessments to determine…There are a number of factors that have combined together and it is our obligation and our intention to address whatever those factors are,” he said.

Asked why government had previously cited hoarding in the absence of assessments, the Minister said that position would have been based on information supplied.

At the same time, Persaud attributed the decline in declaration to weather, price and cost of production in several of the six mining districts. In an effort to cushion the industry from such impacts and ramp up production, he said the Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) would be spending more than GUY$1 billion on road repairs and licensed the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) to import and distribute their own fuel at more competitive rates.

Administrative Coordinator of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, Colin Sparman told Demerara Waves Online News that government’s recent tone on the issue of gold production appeared to be shifting from charges of hoarding. “I would suspect so because the evidence is showing that there is no hoarding but scaling down of production. You are hardly hearing anything about hoarding,” he said.

Latest figures show that there has been a 16 percent decline in gold declarations- 278,127ounces were produced for January to June, 2013 compared to 233,305 ounces for the same period this year

Sparman said government now appeared to have a “more informed position” because the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) was releasing more land. “If there was any hint of hoarding, it would have been very unlikely that they would have been releasing more land,” he added.

The Natural Resources Minister announced that a “competitive” and “open” auction for mining lands on August 11 and lotteries for new mining lands in the mining districts on August 18. “These two important activities would see hundreds of individuals who currently do not have access to their own properties would be able to be given the opportunity,” he said.

The GGMC has so far issued 727 medium scale prospecting permits from January to May, 2014 ( a 68 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013),  469 mining permits (89.6 percent increase) and 18 prospecting licences (38 percent).

The Guyana government had threatened to deploy police and other related law enforcement agencies to ensure that there was no hoarding.