Guyana – Mining Industry – Concerns Over Ownership, Workers Employment Rights

Kaieteur News – The Management of Guyana Goldfields says that the rent of US$5 or G$1,000 is a standard rental arrangement that is offered to all investors desirous of making significant investment in the development of large scale mining properties in Guyana.

This was the position espoused publicly by Director of Corporate Office, Compliance and Government Relations for the company, Peter Benny, who was at the time responding to reportage by this publication on Tuesday, that the Chinese Company, Zinjin Mining Group, which acquired Guyana’s largest goldmines from Canadian based Guyana Goldfields, pays US$5 annually in rental.

To this end, Benny in response said this publication sought to misrepresent the transaction to appear illicit and as such would like to reiterate that all contracts and transactions relative to the Mineral Agreement, the attendant Mineral Licences and every associated matter of the company is available in the public domain and not secret.

This publication had captioned the article under the rubric, ‘Secret contract exposed…’ but according to Benny, in keeping with the Mineral Agreement, there are set reporting obligations, which must be adhered to Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly.

As such, regulatory and compliance agencies are given all reports, both Operational and Financial.

Benny was joined by Guyana’s former Prime Minister, Sam Hinds, who held the portfolio for the Mining Sector up to 2011.

He, in a public missive in the media yesterday, also defended the rental rate to say that the reportage is “much ado about nothing” for while rental rate reported is “absolutely true,” it is “still absolutely true for each and every large scale gold mine, whether owned by a Chinese, a Canadian, an American, an Australian, a European, a Ghanaian, an Indian, a Pakistani, a Saudi, a Guyanese or any Nationality.”

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Meanwhile, the company in defending its operation also responded to claims that it had terminated the employment of several hundred employees.

In its defence, the company blamed the Canadian owners to say, “more than 800 local employees were terminated by the previous management team before it went into Care and Maintenance.”

According to Benny, with the takeover of the Aurora Gold Mines by Zinjin Mining Group, on resumption of operations more than 800 local employees were hired to restart operations and mining.

It is crucial to note that this publication had never claimed that the new Chinese company had terminated the services of 800 employees but rather, that when the company took over the operations it had laid off “a significant number of local businesses and by extensions, hundreds of Guyanese workers.”

The company now in fact claims, that as a policy decision, it “encouraged and cultivated local entrepreneurship where hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses were offered opportunities to either be suppliers of services or suppliers of products.”

With regards obligations for the payment of royalty and taxes, the company said it “continues to be a serious adherent to all Governing Laws and Regulations and Policies relative to its operations in Guyana.”

As such, it is pleased “to state that payment of Royalties, Income Taxes and National Insurance (NIS) are all current.”

Defending its contract, the company said “the Mineral Agreement was comprehensively scrutinised and the conditions granted were not unusual to those granted to others involved in same and similar mining activities.”

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