New GGMC Chairman charting ambitious course

( Newly appointed Chairman of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Clinton Williams has outlined a number of initiatives that if realized, can potentially transform the mining sector in Guyana.

During an interview last Friday, Williams outlined a number of challenges which the sector faces and the measures he is looking to implement in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and all stakeholders, to address these critical issues.

Among the shortcomings highlighted by Williams are the increase in the cost of production, low recovery rates, high transportation and labour costs, lack of skilled labour, insufficient enforcement of regulations and ineffective security.

He said a number of future interventions were already on the table to accelerate growth and development of the sector in keeping with projections for the short to medium term. This he said includes, “The immediate implementation of the programme to increase recovery rates and reduction of utilization of mercury in the recovery process via part utilization of the G$1B intended to support the Technological development, fabrication and testing of prototype plant and equipment in conjunction with Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and in collaboration with IAST and UG.”

Additionally, he said it will be prudent to explore at the same time appropriate technology and associated plant and equipment that would optimize the recovery process by the inclusion of recovery mechanisms for other minerals occurring concurrently with the materials being processed.

Commenting on the state of infrastructure in mining districts, Williams said, “There has been a substantial increase in capital expenditure for roads. The allotted G$926M in 2013 has been increased to G$2.2B in 2014, with incremental injections during the next five years.”

He stressed that novel interventions must be jointly developed between GGMC and GGDMA in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) and Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) in order to strengthen the compliance and enforcement capability.  “The obvious multilayered objectives should be minimization of under declaration/leakages of gold produced, minimization of illegal miners and reduction in incidences of trafficking in persons.  One of the mechanisms to be pursued is the establishment of multi-agency community policing groups utilizing the G$0.5B fund already established by GGMC for this programme.”

As it relates to the lack of a skilled labour force, he said there must be an alignment of curricula at the tertiary and technical institutions with the skills sets required by the mining sector. Also of importance is the development and certification of laboratory facilities to provide for the requirements of the sector.

Turning his attention to the environment, the GGMC Chairman said it is recognized that much work needs to be done in the environmental stewardship of the sector. “Environmental Bonds bear little relationship to the true cost of reclamation and remediation. This is an aspect that perhaps should be outsourced as a business opportunity for areas already mined out, while training in appropriate methodologies for backfilling, restoration and remediation of areas currently being mined should be a collaborative arrangement between the GGMC and the GGDMA,” he said.

The range of services being provided by GGMC he pointed out, must be expanded and performance efficiencies improved by ensuring earliest completion of the new Head Office in Georgetown, in addition to completing the establishment of similar facilities within each mining district.

“Of importance also is the finalization of discussions and execution of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the recognized trade union including implementation of revised remuneration packages for all staff as recommended by the consultants and, finally, implementation of a regime of managerial succession planning with the Commission,” Williams said.

The conceptualization and formulation of a new Strategic Plan for the mining sector for which gold/diamonds will continue to play a significant role is also being looked at.

“Should these interventions materialize, I am confident that the next year would bring progress in the mining sector, but it will also present countless challenges to the Commission, the miners and the Ministry. I am also sure that the Commission and the miners would not always agree on how best to meet those challenges, but if we approach these obstacles and opportunities with a spirit of mutual respect, partnership and the goal of sustainability of the industry, then I am sure we can overcome all hurdles,” he added.