Government and the representative mining association of Guyana are at loggerheads over purported plans to rescind widespread concessions granted to the industry.
The concerns were raised by the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) on Thursday, when, in a public missive it called on its members to be prepared to mobilise for strong and decisive action to safeguard their livelihood.
According to the GGDMA, it “has received highly credible information that the current Government will be rescinding all the concessions granted to miners”.
The Association said Finance Minister Winston Jordan was expected to make this announcement in his budget speech (on November 28) which would include measures that would result in the removal of: all Value Added Tax waivers, concessions for fuel and lubricants, concessions for motor vehicles, concessions on spares and parts, concessions on tools and equipment and the non-renewal of the fuel import licences. The Natural Resources Ministry has since swiftly responded, but instead of denying the accusation outright, said “we can state also that the Ministry of Finance is currently engaged in discussions regarding these concessions and other forms of support to the mining sector, including reviewing requests for renewal of these concessions”.
According to the response to the mining Association issued by the Natural Resources Ministry, “we urge that the executive of the GGDMA await confirmed information from the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Natural Resources before making inaccurate pronouncements that do no one any good”. The GGDMA, in publicly voicing its concerns on Thursday, called the move on the part of Government “the ultimate betrayal of the miners by the APNU/AFC Government and will only serve to make the already difficult industry harder, if not impossible”.
It said it was calling on the Government to restore the status quo and return all the concessions granted to miners under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
The GGDMA said too that the current Government has given no additional help to the industry. “They have provided no new concrete concessions and to date, they have not put in one single road or other infrastructural work that directly benefits the industry.” The Administration has since taken umbrage to this assertion, saying this position was wholly incorrect.
According to the Natural Resources Ministry in its response to the GGDMA, in November 2015, agreements were signed between the GGDMA, the Guyana Energy Agency and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission regarding a number of exemptions from Customs duties on fuel and equipment. These agreements remain in force.
“As the period of the agreement signing would suggest, the agreement was signed under the current Administration”, contrary to what was said in the GGDMA missive, according to the Ministry’s release.
Regarding the assertions by the GGDMA that the current Government has given no additional help to the industry, has provided no new concrete concessions and to date, has not put in one single road or other infrastructural work that directly benefits the industry, the Ministry maintains those assertions “simply have no basis in fact”.
According to the Ministry, it, along with the Public Infrastructure Ministry is currently engaged with members of the GGDMA to address the maintenance and opening up of hinterland roads. The Natural Resources Ministry is adamant the David Granger-led Government places immense value on the contribution of mining to the socioeconomic well-being of Guyana, and especially hails the contributions of small- and medium-scale miners.
“The Administration has no intention of turning its back on the miners at this critical time of national development,” the Ministry said in its missive. The GGDMA in its complaint observed that “the gold industry is set to surpass the 600,000 ounces mark this year…Two-thirds of this figure is the direct effort of the small and medium-scale miners…We have produced this much gold without the concessions or tax breaks the foreign companies enjoy.”
The GGDMA said it held the view that given the same concessions as the foreign companies “we can produce more than 600,000 ounces by ourselves.” The Association said the proposed backward step, on the part of the Administration “to remove all waivers and concessions, will see a significant decline in the production targets next year and many more miners on the breadline.”
According to the GGDMA, “the industry is already suffering and this betrayal is going to kill mining in Guyana…Miners are prepared to take all necessary steps to ensure that the industry survives. We will stand together.”