BY VAHNU MANIKCHAND
Faced with the fluctuating prices for gold on the world market, a number of miners have been forced out of the industry while some who have not paid their bills have seen the banks repossessing more than 100 excavators that they had taken loans to purchase.
Observers say that despite government’s lavish praises on the sector, not much has been done in terms of guiding some of the miners into reinvesting their earnings.
Speaking at a miners’ forum on Monday, Guyana Gold and Diamond Mining Association (GGDMA) President Patrick Harding said the drop in gold prices from US$1800 to US$1200 was devastating to the industry.
He noted that with the little money miners have, they are using it to revive their operations, while some are struggling to meet their expenses.
“Where are we going to find the money to start the year 2014? You know that our banks and financial institutions seldom assist us, they may assist you if you are willing to put up your house or other collateral,” he pointed out at the association’s first meeting for the year on Monday.
Harding explained that because of the serious challenges the industry is facing, they will have to implement ways of cutting costs. He stated that the recovery system which the sector uses, causes about 50 per cent of refined gold to be thrown away, and as such, they are looking at alternative recovery systems to reduce the use of mercury.
The GGDMA president stressed that the high costs of equipment and supplies are a burden on the miners. “The association has met before with some of the suppliers, and of course, they are complaining their costs have remained high but if they want to do business with us, they have to try to reduce their prices, otherwise we will find additional suppliers,” Harding said.
He added that some miners are unable to pay for their equipment and so they are being repossessed by the financial institutions. “Some mining businesses have been closed and some miners being put out of work. We are hoping that 2014, we will find some way around this,” he stated.
Guyana recorded the highest ever gold declaration of 458,105 ounces as at December 16, 2013, surpassing the previous highest level of 455,918 ounces in 2001; which included the declarations of both Omai and small scale operators.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Robert Persaud in making the announcement had said that this is a proud moment for all those who work in the sector. “It shows dedication and commitment of the miners and also addresses the concerns about under declaration of gold or the claims of gold smuggling,” he said.
In addition, the GGDMA president said that the sector is committed to reclamation; however, the cost is too high. “The association, on behalf of the industry, is asking for immediate intervention (of government) in order to bring some relief to this mining industry so that it can survive and continue to play the important role to the economy of Guyana as we have been doing over the past seven years,” he said.
Harding recommended that more lands be released by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), noting that in 2013, four lotteries and four auctions were promised but only two lotteries were held.
“We are calling on our minister to expedite the holding of lotteries and auctions,” he urged.
During the meeting, mining lands was a major issue raised, as the miners themselves requested that more lands be made available and at the same time, they are calling for the lands being leased to be researched for gold presence, since most often miners are given barren lands which ends up being inconvenient and costly to them. “Don’t give us barren lands, give us lands with possibilities,” one miner cried.
President Donald Ramotar, who was present at the meeting, offered government’s assistance to those miners who have difficulties with obtaining loans from banks as he highlighted the need for hire purchase legislation regarding the repossession process.
“We would help those very small miners, we will help them to reclaim so they wouldn’t have that expense and we will do it for them… for the medium-scale people, we will try our best for them to do so,” he said.