…says $2B earmarked to map entire country for 40 known minerals
Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes has described Budget 2017, during her presentation in Parliament yesterday, as one which speaks to the lives of miners, while nothing that come 2020, the entire country would be mapped for all of the 40 known minerals with some $2B being earmarked for this.
She also spoke of improved management for all mining operations nationwide, while noting that Government has recognised that miners are suffering, “hence measures are being taken to fix the issues. The Government recognises the great contribution of the miners and mining, I want to say to you that the Government is worthy of your contribution” Broomes declared.
The Minister in her speech explained some of the hardships encountered by women miners, some of which she related from her personal experiences as a miner. Minister Broomes recalled being stuck in a mile -wide swamp for two nights, in a truck with a jaguar close by due to a poorly maintained trail, “Mr Speaker that is what the PPP [Peoples Progressive Party] put the miners under.”
The Minister continued that everything given to the miners was imposed by the previous PPP Government. This, she said, included the Value Added Tax (VAT) exemptions which only benefited jewellers. “I call that cruelty to miners, ” Broomes stated.
The Minister then announced that the main access road to Mahdia, which was in a poor condition prompting several protests, will be also fixed in 2017.
She emphasised that Budget 2017 offers a good life for all. Speaking to the future, Minister Broomes said that plans are in train to have the University of Guyana adjust its curriculum with assistance from qualified professionals to boost safety in the sector.
The Minister then made a call to all interested persons to participate in the mining sector whether they are differently-abled or not.
However, PPP Member of Parliament (MP), Odinga Lumumba during his presentation to the House yesterday, noted, among other things, that despite the fact that the mining industry is currently the most successful sector in the country, Government has produced a Budget that will increase the hardships on the small miners.
According to Lumumba, the Budget in fact attempts to drive small and medium scale miners into the ‘twilight zone’. He said that as Chair of the Parliamentary Natural Resources Committee he was disappointed with the lack of allocations for the industry.
Lumumba has since called for immediate consultations between the relevant Ministers and stakeholders in order to prevent the rapid destruction of a vibrant industry.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), along with the Guyana Women Miners Association (GWMA) are also of the view that Budget 2017 would devastate the small and medium scale miners, in addition to “collapsing the industry.”
Both the GGDMA and GWMA had recently issued a joint statement calling on Government to re-examine measures placed in the budget to ensure that the local Gold and Diamond Mining Industry does not collapse.
It said the 2017 National Budget, along with the previously proposed three per cent reduction in the gold board price for gold and the removal of concessions to the sector, can only lead to lower declarations and a decline in the sector that would take the economy into a negative spiral.
The organisations also said that while Government has forecasted a 35 per cent growth in the sector in 2016, careful examination will show that there has been a slowdown in the local small- and medium-scale operations. This, it said, is because of the hardships the sector has been facing. These include the removal of several concessions from the industry. It said despite the Minister’s utterances, none of these have been returned.
“The sector in 2015 did not have to pay VAT on heavy-duty equipment, matting, spares and other material used directly in the gold mining sector. In 2016 VAT was required on heavy-duty vehicles and a phased removal of all other concessions was implemented. We cannot do more with less,” the GGDMA lamented.
“The 2017 Budget in its current form spells doom. The mining sector will decline without help” said the GGDMA.