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EPA refutes reports that Aurora gold mine resumed underground mining

Dr. Vincent Adams addressing the 50th Convocation of the University of Guyana on November 12, 2016.

Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday refuted reports that Aurora Gold Mine has resumed underground mining.

EPA Director, Dr. Vincent Adams said the company was merely authorised to gather data to support its application for a permit to mine underground. “This permit is to conduct testing to collect data for the application of a permit so there is no (mining) permit that has been issued,” he said.

That position was backed up by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman. “What EPA did was a kind of a preliminary permit to the company to go ahead to do its feasibility studies, but mining certainly can’t start so it wasn’t a permit to mine. GGMC (Guyana Geology and Mines Commission) gives the permit. What EPA did was clear the way for them to do their feasibility studies,” he said.

Guyana Goldfields, Inc.’s Senior Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Perry Holloway maintained that Guyana Goldfields has received from the EPA an environmental authorization to resume construction and development work on an underground exploration decline at Aurora Gold Mine via a construction permit.

“This essentially will be a long shaft that will allow us to understand the underground geology better and to later on focus our efforts with additional tunnels that would require additional permits and permissions. That said, there will be material coming out of that shaft and we will test mine that material for potential gold as allowed in the EPA permit up to 350,000 tonnes.

This is the first step in any underground mine, but it is only the first exploratory shaft for data gathering. We are 100 percent committed to following the letter of the EPA permit and will seek further permits for work beyond the scope of the permit that has been approved,” Holloway told Demerara Waves Online News.

The company’s news release issued last month never mentioned that underground mining had resumed, but the company did not publicly correct local and foreign media reports that had stated the contrary.

In the release issued on February 20, 2019, the company said it was complying with EPA’s requests and recommendations as part of its plans to begin development of underground mining later this year.

“The Company is finalizing the review of bids received for the underground development contract with the target of final award in the second quarter of 2019,” Guyana Goldfields stated.

The EPA last year ordered Guyana Goldfields to cease underground mining in November, 2018.

Since then, the company said the EPA has issued an environmental authorization to resume construction and development work on an underground exploration decline at Aurora.

“We appreciate the thorough oversight that the EPA is providing,” Perry Holloway has said. “The Company is committed to meeting the highest standards in its planning and execution of this important project and we look forward to continued co-operation with the EPA and the Government as we unlock the value of Aurora for Guyana and the Company’s shareholders.”

Perry Holloway

The authorization to resume operations follows the provision by the Company to the EPA of additional information concerning the application of internationally-accepted codes concerning the environment, health and safety practices being proposed.

The EPA also conducted a routine compliance inspection of the Aurora mine and camp facilities in December 2018. The company has said the EPA requested the Company modify some aspects of its current waste management plan, camp waste water treatment circuit and upgrade the waste oil containment facility. The Company has addressed all the matters raised by the EPA during its inspection which will be further assessed during the next site inspection. At the time of the December inspection the Company was compliant on all other environmental conditions of the operating permit.

Guyana Goldfields said the recommencement of work on the underground decline will begin immediately.

Going forward, the contractor will complete and reinforce the collar and extend the decline 200 metres to fulfil the scope of the early works phase. The Company expects this work will take approximately three months to complete once the contractor is fully mobilised. A budget of US$2 million has been approved for the early works phase.

Guyana Goldfields said the plan is to advance the exploration decline approximately 2,500 metres and provide a platform for further underground exploration and definition drilling. The decline is intended to provide access to all principal underground mining areas, including some higher-grade zones in Mad Kiss and East Walcott which will allow the company to further delineate exploration targets and potentially add mineral resources and help convert mineral resources to mineral reserves.