“This enterprise can become a successful model for large scale mining, and for sound environmental stewardship. It can become a matrix for our mineral driven economic renewal.” These were the sentiments expressed by President David Granger at commissioning and gold pouring ceremony of Guyana Gold fields Incorporated and Aurora Gold Mine Incorporated.
“We congratulate the Guyana Goldfields for commissioning this mine, and the first gold pour. I applaud the efforts of all who worked to bring this enterprise to this stage,” The President said. The company, President Granger added, is now positioned to intensify production, and by so doing, contribute to its own profitability, the prosperity of the nation and to all Guyanese.
“As you know, through our Sovereign Wealth Fund, we will ensure that a little piece of what is poured today and what is poured over the coming years will remain in that fund for posterity. Guyanese children must not be poor again,” the President said.
Even as he spoke of his optimism for the company, he stressed that his government will be looking forward to the company’s respect for local labour and occupational safety laws. “We wish you all success, and today we commit our government’s support, not only to you, but to the entire gold mining sector of our national economy,” President Granger said.
Speaking on the importance of the mining sector, President Granger said there is a link between the development of the hinterland, its people and the gold industry. Alluding to the fact that the hinterland region makes up three quarters of the country, he pointed out that the gold mining industry is located mainly in these regions.
“This industry has been the country’s largest foreign exchange earner for several years, with record breaking production in 2013. A sharp drop in world price for gold in 2014 precipitated a reduction in production, in declarations, and in earnings. Rising cost also resulted in the closure of several small operations and the loss of hundreds of jobs and a slowing in the growth in the economy,” the President said.
However, even amidst these challenges, the President said that the national economy will significantly be enhanced and the livelihood of hinterland residents and miners would be enriched if the industry were to be placed on a surer economic foundation with better administrative controls. This, he said, would result in a more comprehensive and collaborative approach rather than the confrontation and recrimination, which Guyanese have become accustomed to between the state and the industry.
“The gold mining sector is an important pillar of our national economy it continues to contribute to economic growth. Gold production in 2014 represented seven percent of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product,” President Granger pointed out.
President Granger also took the opportunity to outline some of his government’s overall plan, which would see the further development of the hinterland. He noted that every Ministry under the new administration will play a role in addressing issues affecting the industry.
“The Ministry of Education must aim at providing better primary education for children in the hinterland. The Ministry of Public Health must provide better primary health care for our residents, particularly because they are susceptible to vector borne diseases. The Ministry of Social Protection must direct its efforts toward reducing trafficking in persons of our young women, and reducing the high incidence of mining fatalities. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure must work with private partners to build public private partnerships, to provide more extensive, safer and surer transportation,” the President said.
In addition, the administration will be working on creating a different strategy for security in the mining sector with assistance from all stakeholders. “We now have to pay more attention to strategic policies for long term plans and the enforcement of the law,” the President said.
Meanwhile, it was a very emotional day for all stakeholders of the company as they have been working effortlessly for years, to bring mining operations to fruition. The company began exploration in 1996, with 150 employees. However, drilling in the Cuyuni only began in 2003.
Now that production has commenced, close to 500 Guyanese will be retained for the operation, which has a mine life of 17 plus years. The projected corporate income tax is estimated at US$509 million. Projected payroll taxes are estimated at US$67 million; excise taxes, US$43 million.
Further, as part of it mandate of being a good corporate citizen the company has also pledged to donate a school boat to aid in the President’s drive to ensure that every school aged child is in school. (MOTP)