By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The main opposition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) – has expressed deep concern about the impact of current challenges confronting the gold and diamond mining industry following a meeting with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) earlier this week.
Speaking at his weekly press conference today, Head of the Opposition coalition, David Granger accused the administration of neglecting what he says has been the country’s largest foreign currency earner for seven years with record-breaking production in 2013.
He observed that a sharp drop in world price for gold in 2014 precipitated a fall in production, declarations and earnings and a rise in operating costs causing the closure of several operations and the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Granger said his Party is convinced that the national economy could be significantly enhanced and the livelihood of hinterland residents and miners enriched by a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to the industry.
To this end, APNU has committed to a fresh policy towards the industry that will place it on a level that is comparable with other sectors of the economy to attract governmental support.
“APNU is committed to the promulgation of a strategic Plan of Action for the Gold and Diamond Mining Industry in order to sustain employment, investment and development of the industry,” Granger said.
Also expressing similar sentiments were shadow Local Government Minister Ronald Bulkan and shadow Environment Minister Dr. Rupert Roopnarine.
Roopnarine accused the administration of pussy footing in its attempts to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which he says provides a framework for helping small scale miners and ensuring sustainable mining practices.
The Opposition MP reasoned that the mining industry and operations are plagued with problems that require a new plan to address them.
Bulkan said the implications were dire and needed urgent attention while pointing to some of those problems, among which is; the neglect of the sector by the government, uneven playing field, concessions to foreign players, poor infrastructure, and little or no assistance from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission among others.
According to Granger, attention must be paid to hinterland infrastructure while reiterating APNU’s policy to improve the maintenance of aerodromes, roadways and bridges, hinterland security; explaining that it is the APNU’s intention to transfer the headquarters of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) hinterland (‘F’) division from Georgetown to Bartica.
He said too that his Party’s intention is to upgrade Mabaruma, Bartica, Mahdia and Lethem – the administrative centres of the Barima-Waini; Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and Rupununi Regions, respectively – into townships with their own mayors and municipal councils in 2015.
APNU reiterated its support for the resolution of legitimate indigenous land rights claims in order to avoid conflict.
“APNU iterates its intention to improve health and to suppress vector-borne diseases such as malaria… consideration will be given to the GGDMA’s proposal for the reduction of rental paid on mining properties, lowering royalty payments and the acquisition of equipment, fuel,vehicles and accessories.”
APNU pledged to do more to support the gold and diamond mining industry to ensure its viability.