Under apparent pressure by hundreds of workers angered at being temporarily laid off and paid half of their salaries, Senior Labour Minister Amna Ally has intervened and withdrawn a letter by her Junior, Keith Scott, that had instructed Troy Resources Limited to cease all operations because of safety concerns uncovered by an inspector at two additional gold mining pits.
“I, Amna Ally, Minister of Social Protection, hereby wish to notify you that the letter dated October 10, 2019 under the hand of Honourable Keith Scott, Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, is hereby rescinded.”
Government officials now hope that the Australian-owned Troy Resources would eventually resume operations except at the particular area where company geologist, Ryan Taylor, died after an unstable section of the Hicks One Extension pit collapsed with him on October 8.
Workers feel that the cease work order by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour should only have ordered the pit where Taylor met his demise closed and not the overall operation. The employees are uncertain of their next move as they have to await further word from Troy Resources.
Ally declined to speak with News-Talk Radio 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News by phone on the issue and declined to agree to a date for a face-to-face interview.
She rescinded Scott’s October 10, 2019 letter to the company’s General Manager, Eric Olson on October 15, while expressing concern about safety and leaving the door open for talks. “We are concerned with the operations of Troy Resources Guyana Inc. as well as the Occupational Safety and Health matters connected therewith. The matter shall be addressed shortly,” she said.
Ally stayed clear of a preliminary finding by an Occupational Safety and Health officer of her ministry that had prompted Junior Minister, Keith Scott to order that all operations grind to a halt.
“An officer of the ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Department has conducted a preliminary investigation which has determined that there is need for further inquiry particularly in relation to Larkin and Smarts Three (pits),” he had told Olson.
Against that background, Minister Scott had issued the cease work order. “Pending the conduct of further inquiry which shall commence on Friday, October 11, 2019, it is hereby directed that there be a cessation of all mining activities with immediate effect until further notice from this ministry,” he had stated. Scott had told Troy Resources that the mines would not have been ordered to resume operations unless “there is no foreseeable impediment to the safety of all concerned” including managerial and non-managerial staff.
The company has already suspended trading on the Australian Securities Exchange after Scott ordered the company to cease operations at all three pits while the Occupational Safety and Health Department probed the situation there.
Scott’s cease order followed the death of Taylor and Troy Resources called the junior minister’s decision “knee-jerk”.
“This came as a surprise to the Company since the ban included all mining areas including the Smarts 3 and Larkin Pits which are not where the incident took place. This stop order was inconsistent with normal protocols in such situations, which is to cordon of the area of the incident, being the Hicks 1 Extension Trench, a process the Company had already undertaken immediately after the accident.
“Troy considers that it is possible that the junior Minister in question chose to act as a knee-jerk reaction in response to extensive false and misleading information being circulated on social media by various groups and individuals concerning the accident and the safety record of the Company generally,” the company has said.
Troy Resources has publicly committed that it would re-employ all of the workers if and when the cease order is lifted.