Last Updated on Saturday, 21 May 2016, 13:57 by Denis Chabrol
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman on Saturday questioned the motive behind the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA)’s castigation of government’s efforts to improve the mining sector, and vowed that the “free-for-all” days are over.
“Unfortunately, this recent attack, having taken the Ministry by surprise, suggests that the GGDMA prefers to see itself as a pressure group rather than as a committed partner working alongside the Ministry of Natural Resources to regulate an industry that was previously governed in a very unregulated and biased manner,” Trotman said in a statement.
He was reacting to several claims by top GGDMA officials that government was sending unclear signals about its commitment to the development of the mining industry. The association is also upset that Guyana Geology and Mines Commission officials have been enforcing existing or new rules although agreements have been reached in meeting to put several of them on hold.
Arguing that government’s plan to implement all laws and regulations dating back to 1921 could result in the eventual closure of the mining industry, the GGDMA has signalled that it might take to the streets in protest action. The association wants to meet with President David Granger to air its grievances which include the breaching of river banks to get to some mining areas and the introduction of 16-percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on all mining equipment.
For his part, the Minister of Natural Resources lashed back at the GGDMA, claiming that it has refused to share an Inter-American Development Bank-sponsored comprehensive review of the mining sector while “conceding that the findings would benefit the Government’s efforts at reform and be useful in refining its policies.”
Saying that he was “nonplussed” about the motive behind the GGDMA statements, Trotman said prior to Friday’s (May 20, 2016) outburst he was led to believe that previous engagements were “cordial and fruitful.” He recalled that the latest round of talks was held on May 10, 2016 when himself, Junior Minister of Natural Resources Simona Broomes, GGMC Chairman Stanley Ming, GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison and the GGDMA Executive held discussions on issues that have been affecting miners and discussed ways of tackling them together. “No statements about a crisis or absence of a policy were uttered at that meeting and begs the question whether the meeting was a sham,” he said.
The Natural Resources Minister said recent statistics about high gold declarations contradict the GGDMA”s utterances about the industry being in a crisis and devoid of any policy to give it direction. “The statistics don’t lie, and instead, confirm that an industry that is better regulated and incentive driven will produce results. The “free for all” days that some want to drag us back to are over,” he said.
Trotman pledged that the Ministry of Natural Resources “remains ready, willing and able to seriously, fairly, and meaningfully, engage the GGDMA and all other stakeholders, and is expecting, that they are prepared to do the same.”