by Zena Henry
As government prepares to name a new Chairman and Board of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), differences have surfaced between the management of that regulatory authority and the incumbent chairman, Clinton Williams who has since mounted a strong defence of his integrity.
Demerara Waves Online News was told that former high-ranking military officer has been asked to be Chairman of the GGMC’s Board.
The management has expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Chairman steered the board and committees which he heads and wants him gone from the agency’s hierarchy.
Williams however, is not backing down from the feud as he refuses to take blame for perceived issues that plagued the correct functioning of the agency under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government.
Williams is convinced that there is a “deliberate attempt” by persons within the GGMC to “tarnish” his image, as the government is soon to decide his fate.
While GGMC’s management has no final say on what happens regarding the agency’s board and committees it was expressed to Demerara Waves that they do not want Williams to remain as head of the Closed Areas Committee in particular, and the Technical Sub-committee.
Management highlighted a few inconsistencies with the recent attempt to ‘illegally’ transfer more than $3B from the agency to the Central Housing and Planning Agency under the PPP/C administration being most upsetting. But Williams has taken credit for blocking the transfer by seeking legal advice.
He defended that for such allegations, he made public his position against the more than $3B transfer to Housing which he deemed among other things as an illegal transaction which he could not support. Williams reiterated that he could not be blamed for matters which he has “no control” over.
The Closed Area Committee is mandated to identify closed areas, and state reserves that can be opened to miners for the purposes of locating claims, and approving applications for grants of Prospecting and Mining Licences, Prospecting Permits and Mining Permits.
It’s responsible for unused mining blocs that have to be returned to the State. However, complaints are that the usual practice was that repossessed land was being awarded to friends through insider trading, sometimes through lotto or auction.
Management questioned transactions such as, a miner receiving 22 medium scale permits for mercury free mining in a geological reserve that has the potential for large scale exploitation. “Only the Closed Area Committee could give such permission,” it was touted. Wrongdoing was alleged there, as a named PPP government person was said to have received money for this transaction.
Williams has refuted this allegation as head of the Closed Areas Committee stating that at no time under his watch was 22 properties given out, “You can check the record,” he assured. Williams assured too that he has no influence over what happens within the Closed Areas Committee, stating that the body includes members of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, (GGDMA), reps of GGMC and other Committee members appointed by the former Minister who have to sign off on matters as a “consensus.” “I am a mere rubber stamp,” he told Demerara Waves.
He noted however that government has put all boards on hold, and was expected to discuss GGMC at Cabinet on Tuesday, June 30.
He said that they will be putting, “who they want on the Board,” and suspects that his fate will be known then, when they announce members of the new Board.
Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman, who is integrally involved in the country’s natural resource management arm, confirmed that the government has suspended the GGMC board and its make-up was slated to be discussed at Cabinet.
He said he is aware that there was “a not-too-good relationship” between the board and chairman in the past, but is unaware whether matters of concerns reached the government from the management. He said the rift between the two sides was very public, but they should both wait for the government’s determination.