While admitting that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) may have dropped the ball by not going after Troy Resources for outstanding royalties, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has maintained that the blame should be laid squarely at the feet of the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) regime for failing to recover the monies owed since 2018 by the mining company.
Earlier this week, the Government announced the termination of the gold licence that was issued to Troy Resources Guyana Incorporated (TRGI) after the Australia-based company exited Guyana, owing over $2.6 billion to the State.
Several commentators have since been criticising the PPP/C Administration for allowing the Australian company to escape with this large sum of money.
But Jagdeo on Thursday clapped back at the critics, disclosing that most of the outstanding money was accrued during the coalition’s time in office.
It was noted that while the agreement with Troy Resources was signed by the former PPP/C Administration under the Donald Ramotar presidency, the Australian mining company only started production in 2015 until mid-2021, when they shut down operations in Guyana due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Vice President pointed out that in 2018, TRGI had some 5639 ounces of gold in royalties, equivalent in value to US$7.2 million or over $1.5 billion, that they should have but did not pay. While payments were made in 2019, the following year, the mining company again failed to pay royalties for another 879 ounces of gold, that is, US$1.6 million or $349 million.
In total, Troy Resources racked up approximately $1.8 million in outstanding royalties during the five years under the APNU/AFC Government.
“So, that’s a bulk of the money already there in unpaid royalties in 2018… So, all outstanding liabilities mainly were done under the APNU period,” Jagdeo stated.
On this note, the Vice President hit back at several publications that sought to lay the blame for TRGI escaping without paying the outstanding monies on the current PPP/C Administration. He said it is disgusting that the authors have absolved the APNU/AFC of any role in this matter when it was reaping the benefits from the company’s operations here, that is, gold production and job creation.
“It’s disgusting, absolving the whole APNU for this and blaming all of this on the PPP when it was absolutely a failure mainly on the part of APNU for this… The blame should be laid squarely on APNU. This situation dragged on for a while and the fact of the matter is that they benefitted in office from the production for an investment signed under the PPP,” he stated.
VP Jagdeo further defended the contract signed between the then PPP/C Government and Troy Resources, noting that the concessions contained therein were in accordance with the standard benefits offered to other companies in the sector. He said the aim at the time was creating jobs for Guyanese and enhancing Guyana’s economic output at a time when the oil industry was non-existent.
Dropping the ball
Nevertheless, the Vice President admitted that the current PPP/C Administration may have “dropped the ball” by not going after TRGI for the outstanding monies owed. But he argued at the time when the Irfaan Ali-led regime took office in August 2020, it was faced with mounting challenges that warranted its immediate attention such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People don’t understand, the PPP Government came in after five months of this attempt to steal the elections. We came into office and we were faced with, at that time, the country was locked down [due to COVID] … We had to pass a budget in four weeks because there was no budget in 2020… Just go back in time – a new Government, country lockdown, people not working,” he noted.
According to Jagdeo, they managed to tackle these issues in record time by streaming immediate needs in the health sector to adequately handle the pandemic as well as preparing the 2020 budget in just four weeks and having it passed in the National Assembly.
“We then had to start opening up back the country more so that people could start getting back their jobs… These lasted after mid-2021. So, I’m accepting that we probably dropped the ball too but just think about that period from August 2020 to August 2021 when [Troy Resources] stopped producing, that was the era that we were in. The last thing you were thinking about at that time might be Troy Resources. You’re just thinking about keeping people safe and back to work, and getting money to them… We were worried about that sort of thing, getting help to people,” he contended.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Government explained that it terminated both the Karouni mineral agreement and licence that Troy Resources and Pharsalus Gold Incorporated had to mine gold in Guyana.
Additionally, the Government has since taken control of the Karouni Mine in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Police on the ground.
In addition to failing to pay outstanding royalties, the Australian mining company has also failed to pay rental fees as well as failed to adhere to its environmental obligations to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and work programme.
Moreover, a number of companies and sub-contractors are also owed millions by Troy. In fact, there are workers who are owed wages for extended periods by the mining company, and according to the Government, the Ministry of Labour is dealing with this.
It was further reported that Troy Resources has entered into receivership, the process where creditors sell off a company’s assets to recover monies owed. According to the Government statement, Troy actually initiated this process, but due to poor site management, persons have been raiding the site and stealing equipment and material.