By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Employees within the local mining sector have complained that the Guyana Government is not giving them the attention that that is needed for the sector to progress and said bad practices continue to go unnoticed and unsanctioned.
Former Chief Shop Steward of Bauxite Company Guyana Incorporated and now employee of Guyana Goldfields Lennox Smith, at a recent Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) press conference, bemoaned the lack of attention from the government.
According to Smith, under previous administrations and the present administration, other sectors continue to be given immediate attention whenever an issue arises but believes the same cannot be said for the extractive sector.
Smith said, “The only workers they are in Guyana works at Guysuco and the rice industry…every time there is a problem at the sugar estate it is looked after…what happened to the rest of us.”
“Everyone that sit in government, when the bauxite workers cry our voices are not being heard, but when the sugar workers cry they are being heard,” the man stated.
The declaration by Smiths came after the recently concluded inquiry into the mining sector revealed that 25 persons were killed as a direct result of work place accidents in the past 12 months.
The main contributing factor in the pit failure accidents was the neglect of safe mining practices. In addition there was evidence that shortcuts were being taken in an effort to raise production.
It has also been noted in the report that from 2010 to 2015, a total of 62 miners, particularly young men, have died in the industry.
The COI also found that there is a laidback culture to safety and as such, clear rules must be applied and enforced.
Meanwhile, a draft plan of action was presented by acting Commissioner of the GGMC, Newell Dennison and included strategies for Occupational Health and Safety. It includes plans for collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection, improvement at the technical levels, continuous and systematic training, enhancement of education and instituting a certification requirement for the General Managers of the mining operations, and public and miners’ education.
Guyana generates a large share of its economic activity from agriculture and natural resources sectors. In 1993, the traditional sectors of sugar, rice and bauxite accounted for 30.4 percent of Guyana’s GDP and 57.7 percent of the country’s export earnings.
Progress in diversifying the economy, resulted in the agriculture sector accounting for 20 percent of GDP, and still accounts for a large share of the country’s economy.
The contribution of the gold sector, which now approximate 10 percent of GDP has doubled since mid-2000s. These sectors provide the largest source of direct employment across the country.