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Miners Association calls for swift, smooth conversion from Prospecting Licence to Mining Permit

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) on Tuesday called on the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission to fast-track the change-over of lands from prospecting licence to medium scale mining permits and to cease attaching any conditions for the process.

“The GGDMA categorically rejects the ongoing, inordinate delays in processing of the requested applications. We reiterate that the GGMC has an implied duty to process applications without undue delay; some applications are pending for more than 24 months. A deliberate attempt at maximum administrative delay could not have been worse,” said the association.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman has since said a legal opinion acquired by the GGDMA, which he has seen, would form the basis for a forum  by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to iron out concerns. “The Ministry is in receipt of a copy of the opinion which the legal and technical officers are examining. A consultation will be held with GGMC to determine the way forward,” Trotman told Demerara Waves Online News.

In clear reference to the GGDMA’s objection to performance criteria being used as a yardstick for conversion from Prospecting Licence to Mining Permit, the Minister countered by saying that, “the role of the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) and GGMC is to ensure that mining is facilitated in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner and according to law”.

The GGDMA said it also categorically rejects the suggestions of the Commissioner that applications for conversion must be tied to performance criteria set by the staff, Commissioner, or Board of the GGMC. “The performance criteria, we submit, impinge on the performance bond and due process related thereto. The PL continues in force until cancelled by the competent authority. The PL holder must not be subjected to administrative dicta which result in frustration of the PL Holder.

The GGDMA said it was advised that the only criterion for conversion is that the PL must be in force. “We are further advised that if the PL holder is in default, he is notified in writing by the GGMC of the default and is requested to remedy same.”

The Association said a legal opinion by independent counsel reaffirms that the previous action by Ministers responsible for Mines and Minerals, the Boards and Commissioners of the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission (GGMC) since 1994, to allow portions of  or all the lands held in valid Prospecting Licenses held by Guyanese to be marked of and applied for as Mining Permits [Medium Scale], is legal and grounded in the Mining Act and the Regulations.

While that has been happening since 1994, the association said that there has been no publication of notice to the public that the applications and subsequent grants of the Mining Permits under Section 35 of the Regulations, were illegal, unlawful or offended the Mining Act of 1989.

Meanwhile, the GGDMA welcomes the recent decision by the GGMC to offer a waiver of interest on monies owed by medium scale miners for late payment of rent.

“We recognize that this amnesty follows a rich tradition by the GGMC to give meaningful support to the mining sector. We note that such positive actions flow from an understanding of the vagaries of the sector. Likewise, we commend the Minister for his Policy which provided special approval, by way of Order, for small miners in need to obtain special mining permits from the Closed Area Reserve.

According to the association, from time miners need a helping hand and even now some of our larger miners have begun lending sums of money to syndicate members to assist them to get back on their feet. “Yes, we are not interested in burying the wounded. We therefore, call on our mining administrators to continue to temper justice with mercy as we pursue development of the mining industry in particular and Guyana as a whole.”

The GGDMA said accepts the right of the Minister under Section 133 of the Mining Act 65:01 to exempt anyone from the provisions of the Act in order to give effect to any Mining Policy the Minister desires to put in force. We note with concern, that the actions of some senior staff at the GGMC seem to suggest that they reject this right of the Minister to exempt. “We are advised that the staff of the GGMC appear to reject the decisions of the Commissioner and challenge his right to implement Policy as stated by the Minister. We know that the GGMC Act gives the Minister the right to advise the Commissioner on Mining Policy to be implemented,” the association added.

The GGDMA re-stated its commitment to a continued mutually beneficial and harmonious working relationship with the Government, the senior Minister responsible for Mines and Minerals, the Junior Minister in the Ministry of Natural Resources, the staff of the Ministry, the Board of Directors and Commissioner and his staff of the GGMC.