– in making ‘sudden, high-handed and authoritarian’ policy changes without consultation
Miners are venting their growing frustration over what they described as the “sudden, high-handed and authoritarian changes” being made by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
Over the last couple of weeks, stakeholders in the gold and diamond mining industry said they have “felt blindsided” and have been “surprised by the sudden, rushed and high handed implementation of several new policy decisions” of the Government of Guyana (GOG) in relation to the mining sector.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miner’s Association ( GGDMA), as the lobbying body of the mining industry for over 30 years, yesterday issued a scathing statement in which it bluntly questioned the “real motive of the GOG in abandoning the long standing tradition of consultation with the industry and now resorting to an authoritarian style”.
The GGDMA said it stands ready to take the necessary action to protect the livelihoods of all legitimate Guyanese and other miners who have invested time, money and energy in the sector.
Following is the full text of the GGDMA statement:
Over the last couple of weeks, stakeholders in the gold and diamond mining industry have felt blindsided as we have been surprised by the sudden, rushed and high handed implementation of several new policy decisions of the Government of Guyana (GOG) in relation to the mining sector.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miner’s Association ( GGDMA) is left to wonder what is the real motive of the GOG in abandoning the long standing tradition of consultation with the industry and now resorting to an authoritarian style.
These ill informed decisions will significantly increase the burdens, costs and also make the management of mining operations more onerous. Is this a clandestine move to deprive miners of their right to ply their trade? Is the government trying to secure existing mineral rich properties to redistribute as they see fit in order to keep promises made? The GGDMA demands answers.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has been besieged by calls from miners from all over Guyana requesting answers as to why such decisions were taken and if we had any role to play in this decision making processes. The reality is that we were NEVER informed that any of these decisions were being considered. We were made aware of them at the same time as the general public, long after the decisions had been made and actioned. As the lobbying organisation representing the interests of all miners in the gold and diamond mining industry for over 30 years, it is very concerning that the regulatory body and the Ministry are steaming-ahead with implementing these decisions without even the token courtesy of first garnering some input from us regarding our views on these actions and the impact it would have on our industry. This is not the relationship we envisioned would exist with the current Administration. We thought that an open door partnership and transparent relationship existed between the public and the private sectors in the mining industry. At the very least, the views of the private sector should be taken into account before such drastic action is taken. Rather, it would appear that there was just a perception of a partnership. The reality is that the perceived partnerships has been replaced with a heavy handed, hasty and authoritarian approach.
This dire scenario of non-consultation and disregard presently has the stake holders in our industry in a state of worry and stress as we all ask ourselves the question “What’s next and how horribly will it impact our future?”
While there are many that have come to light recently, there are three main issues we wish to urgently highlight that are of dire concern to our industry:
- VAT exemption requests will no longer be considered for heavy duty earth moving equipment for use in the medium scale mining industry in Guyana
- For medium scale Mining Permit Holders – A requirement to yearly report on a “confidential basis” sensitive financial records regarding the operations on each Mining Permit
- The Ministry of Natural Resources recommendation to rescind all previously approved Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) permission for access and egress via the river banks to access mining properties.
Non-allowance of VAT waivers on heavy machinery for medium scale miners:
Despite all the promises and commitments from the current Government of Guyana for waivers, tax concession and other mechanisms designed to boost production in the industry we have been unable to get anything beyond lip service. Now we are told even the conditions we historically enjoyed are to be taken away and we will have to pay even more to work in the industry. The traditional waiver of taxes is now being taken away and we did not even get the courtesy of a consultation.
In the 1990s, the use of heavy duty equipment, particularly excavators, were added as an important tool to aid quantity and efficiency of mineral extraction. While full duties and taxes have always been paid on spare parts for these machines, as long as they have been utilized in the local mining industry, the removal of all duties and taxes on the new machine itself was enjoyed by legitimate miners. Even before the VAT, the Consumption Tax, which the VAT replaced, was waived for heavy duty earth moving equipment to be utilized in the mining industry at all scales of production.
With the removal of the VAT waiver on all heavy duty equipment in the industry, the additional cost that a miner will have to bear on each new excavator will be between Gy$4.5 million to $7 million. In the case of bulldozers it will be significantly higher. Given that these machines typically have a working life in the interior of 3 years, this is an added cost per excavator of approximately Gy$13 million to $21 million over a 10 year period. Such large sums will definitely pose a heavy burden that will be difficult for medium scale miners to bear and may lead to an increase in the number of operators exiting the industry.
To date not a single miner has benefitted from any of the promised concessions on fuel and other items that were granted last year October for a period of 6 months to tax compliant miners. Despite many tax compliant miners submitting all the requested paper work and the GGDMA following up and meeting with the representatives of the agencies responsible for administering the concessions, namely GGMC, GRA and GEA, nothing ever materialised during the stipulated time. In the past we had publicly thanked the Government for keeping their election promise of granting this concession to miners, however we wish to now publicly state that although a document was executed, no benefits were ever realised by any operator in the industry. These are retrograde steps, and we believe they are designed with suspiciously sinister motives.
Enforcement of the requirement to provide financial reports on the operations of each Mining Permit:
A majority of the policies that govern the mining industry today were compiled without any consultation with representatives from the sector. This was the main impetus that lead the then President, Donald Ramotar, to establish a Ministerial committee a few years ago with GGMC and the Ministry of Natural Resources in collaboration with the GGDMA to meet, consult and deliberate on revisions to the Mining Act and other related policies and regulations before the revised 2012 regulations were to take effect. The main reason was to ensure applicability and practicality. The consultations process on these matters were stymied and put on the back burner for numerous reasons, however we wish to take this opportunity to once again echo to the Hon. Raphael Trotman that we would like to rekindle this process before any such dormant regulations are enforced. The association is objecting strenuously to the implementation of any new policy without consultation. The association is calling for urgent meetings and has sent out a request to meet with His Excellency President David Granger to discuss this and other issues.
Rescinding of all previously granted permission for Access and egress to concessions via the river banks:
The reason for GGMC and the Ministry of Natural Resources decision to suddenly rescinded every single permission that was previously granted by GGMC for Access and egress to mining properties via the river banks without publicly providing any specific reason is harsh and unreasonable to say the least. The only way that the GGDMA can fathom that such a move is a sensible and justifiable one is if ALL the operations previously given permission were scrutinised and were ALL found to be in violation of the mining permission. Otherwise the “Peter pays for Paul and Paul pays for all” approach is very worrying and irregular. Miners who are mining within the limits of the agreements should not be penalised for the actions of those who are in breach of the agreements.
While we can appreciate GGMC’s desire to enforce the mining permissions/agreements and to have compliance in the sector, we wish to reiterate that it should be done via a genuine private and public partnership where there is consultation and education before action. Transitioning the way the industry works and the manner in which miners operate cannot be done overnight, but it is a process that will take some time. If there is no genuine partnership, an unnecessary burden is placed on all the operators in the industry. It is only natural that this will result in a growing distrust as operators continue to live in a state of fear and worry with the pressure of not knowing what will happen next and what input they have in serious decisions affecting their living. As the lobbying body of the mining industry for over 30 years, the GGDMA stands ready to take the necessary action to protect the livelihoods of all legitimate Guyanese and other miners who have invested time, money and energy in the sector.
Once again, we take this opportunity to remind all miners to only sell their gold to the Guyana Gold Board or Licensed Dealers and request a receipt with each transaction.