With the withdrawal of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) from the Multi-stakeholder Group (MSG) that manages the Guyana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GYEITI), the local non-governmental organization Policy Forum Guyana (PFG) challenged the claim that minors have been targeted and harassed to make disclosures.
Responding to claims by a GGDMA official, who spoke to Stabroek News about the withdrawal, the PFG in a statement released on Monday sought to clarify what had happened.
PSG noted that contrary to the impression given, GGDMA is not represented on the MSG. Instead, the mining association was invited by the Minister of Natural Resources during the formation of GYEITI in 2016 to facilitate the election of a group to represent the interests of small and medium-scale miners. It was pointed out that once the MSG is officially inaugurated, the participants are there on an individual basis. Moreover, the same goes for the role played by PFG for the civic component of the MSG. It was also explained that GYEITI is the Guyanese section of EITI whose members serve on a voluntary basis and has a small secretariat that coordinates the work of the MSG.
According to the statement, the elected member of GGDMA representing all small and medium-scale miners, “devoted more energy to reminding the industry that the participation of gold companies in the EITI process is voluntary and not mandatory” instead of use the platform to educate sectors on the benefits of EITI. While the claim that GGDMA’s participation was “voluntary” was acknowledged by PFG to be true, the NGO suggested that the association’s representative “appears to have neglected” to inform minors that the government , once engaged in the EITI process, must disclose what it has received from each company invited to report, whether the company is cooperating or not. “This distorted information caused a great deal of consternation among the companies who declined the invitation when the first GYEITI report revealed information from all the companies invited. “
PFG also contested the assertion by the head of GGDMA that GYEITI undertakes to track down “all these little minors harassing them” to produce this and explain that “. compiling the report were those who paid $ 75 million or more to the government of Guyana for the year 2017, or more than $ 60 million in 2018, in the form of license fees, royalties and other forms of taxation. It was revealed that in 2017 there were 28 such entities, some of which were buyers rather than producers. The rationale for this selection, he explained, was to focus on the large entities that collectively provided around 95 percent of all industry revenue, rather than suing the rest of the industry’s 19,000 workers. to find the remaining 5 percent. . “The vast majority of small and medium-scale miners were not at all affected by EITI procedures. “
Therefore, according to PFG, GGDMA’s attempt to project GYEITI as a war on small and medium-scale miners “serves to distract from the more relevant question of how companies that pay more than $ 75 million tax dollars can be considered and on a medium scale ”. In fact, what is more relevant here, PFG says, is that GYEITI is drawing attention to this issue.
As the press release explains: “The term ‘medium-scale’ conceals a widespread abuse in the industry that miners have licenses covering an area well in excess of 1,200 acres which defines the difference between ‘large’ and ‘medium’. ladder “. By dividing a large area of land into a multiplicity of licenses, the license owner escapes payment of the license fees that large-scale mining attracts. Further, this claim is supported by figures from the GYEITI 2017 report which illustrate the extent of this abuse and the concomitant losses of millions of dollars in hard currency to the government and the country.
And in an effort to add more detail to this damning claim, PFG pointed to evidence from the 2017 report that shows the largest miner held 228,339 acres spread across 233 medium-scale permits, mostly contiguous land, less than 1,200 acres. Figures from the EITI Report indicate some 329 “medium-scale” operators engaged in the practice in 2017, with the ten largest holding 1,013 million acres under 1,029 medium-scale licenses. “For comparison, it’s almost the size of the island of Trinidad (1,268 million acres).”
According to the statement, “the systematic registration of large-scale operations as a multiplicity of smaller operations aims to avoid the higher fees that large-scale licenses attract on a medium-scale. The loss on each license is the equivalent of $ 2.00 per acre per year which must be multiplied by the 2,690,552 acres being mined by the 329 mentioned above. This figure should then be multiplied by the decades in which it was practiced, in order to find the true amount defrauded from the Guyanese people. “
Regarding GGDMA’s claim that the EITI is ‘intrusive’, the statement said that such a claim suggests that the divestiture of Guyana’s state-owned natural assets by private companies at the expense of the The state is theirs alone.
It is not the role or function of the EITI, argued PFG, to pass judgment on the information revealed by the process, let alone correct it. Instead, he said the only function of the EITI is to provide transparency about what governments claim to receive and companies claim to pay and between regulations and actual practices. “Joining the points and drawing conclusions remains the responsibility of Guyanese society as a whole. “
In conclusion, the PFG suggested that the current stalemate with the gold sector could be broken by the inauguration of the new MSG by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
As an implementing country, Guyana is preparing for its 3rd EITI validation process which is due to start on October 1 of this year. The government is required to commit to working with civil society and business, and to establish the multi-stakeholder group to oversee the implementation of the EITI.
PFG is a network of civic organizations that emerged in 2015 with the overall goal of strengthening electoral, environmental and financial accountability. PFG members currently include some 22 organizations spanning trade unions, indigenous women, youth, transparency and faith-based organizations active in Guyana.