Guyana contains one of the most highly prospective, yet under-explored, gold regions in the world. It has a long history of alluvial gold production, but only recently declared itself open to foreign investment and mineral exploration after enacting the Land Tenure Act in 2004. The self-financing Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is the government entity responsible for overseeing the country’s mining and quarrying sector, a critical component of the Guyanese economy.
Guyana: People, History, and Government
The Co-operative Republic of Guyana (Guyana) is a small country located on the northern Atlantic Coast of South America with a population of approximately 750,000 people. It is bordered by Venezuela to the west, Brazil to the south, and Suriname to the east, and is divided into ten regions for administrative purposes.
Guyana is a common law country with a three-tiered judicial system. The lowest courts are the Magistrate Courts. The highest court is the Court of Appeal, which hears a limited number of cases on appeal from the middle- level High Court. The Constitution charges the National Assembly with determining the number of twelve High Court Judges and appointing them to office. Currently, there are twelve High Court Judges. The president has the power to appoint justices to the Court of Appeal. Judges are constitutionally required to exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other persons or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control.
Government Oversight of Mining
A variety of government entities are involved in regulating the gold mining industry. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is responsible for the implementation of the Mining Act 1989, which establishes the legal frame work for the utilization of mineral resources in Guyana. The Guyana Gold Board (GGB) is a marketing board that serves as the country’s sole official buyer of gold. The Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to impose the requirement of completing an Environmental Impact Assessment upon holders of medium scale mining permits and large scale mining licences, but no small scale permit holders. The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs (MAA) consults on aspects of mining that affect Amerindians.
Guyana Geology and Mines Commission
As the government agency responsible for managing the mineral and petroleum sectors, GGMC has the most direct control over mining operations. Headed by a commissioner, it administers the Mining Act and Mining Regulations to promote mining as a source of development for Guyana. The Geological Surveys and Mines Department establish GGMC in 1979, and it now operates as a semi-autonomous corporate body owned by the government. Its responsibilities include creating opportunities for rapid economic development in the mineral sector, providing the public with prospecting information about economically valuable mineral prospects and regulating all activities in the mineral sector. It also provides technical assistance and advice in mining, mineral processing and marketing of mineral resources. GGMC reports enforces the condition of a variety of mining licence, permits, and concessions and collects revenues under the Mining Act and its implementing regulations. GGMC reports to the Minister of Mines, currently Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, GGMC is self-financed and pays the salaries of its employees, including mines officers, out of taxes collected on mined minerals.
GGMC processes all application for minerals properties in Guyana. Large-scale Miners must apply first for a prospecting licence and then for a mining licence. GGMC also determines which areas of the country are opened to mining explorations. There are currently six mining districts; Berbice, Potaro, Mazaruni, Cuyuni, The Northwest District, and Rupununi. GGMC divides mining operations into three categories based on scale; (1) small scale areas of up to 1,500 by 800 feet for a land claim or up to 1 mile of a navigable river for a river claim; (2) medium scale for areas between 150 and 1200 acres; (3) and large scale claims. The only large scale gold mine in Guyana, Omai, ceased operation in the third quarters of 2005 although more large scale mines are expected in the future. Small scale mining claims make up the overwhelming majority of mining claims in Guyana; there is no limit on how many small scale claims one permit-holder may acquire. Medium scale claims are reserved for Guyanese miners; the number of active medium scale miners may be a small fraction of the number of total mines.
Guyana Gold Board
The GGB was established by the Gold Board Act in 1981 and began operating in 1983. Its primary function is to purchase all gold produced in Guyana and to sell the majority of it on the international market, setting aside a small fraction for sale to domestic jewellers. The Guyanese government created the GGB to ensure the capture of the government’s due share of mining royalties by preventing the sale of gold on the black market. Although GGB is technically separate from GGMC, it is housed within the same building as GGMC.
Royalties and taxes are collected at the same time that the miner sells his gold to the GGB. The GGB relies on the incentives rather than enforcement to bring gold onto the legal market.
Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC)
The GFC is a semi-autonomous organization formed in 1979 with a legal mandate to manage and control the utilization of the State Forest Estate. It main role is to ensure the sustainable utilization State Forest Estate in keeping with sustainable forest management principles and guidelines. The GFC also has a development mandate to ensure that that there is a balance among the pillars social, economic and environmental development. The recently passed Forest Act 2009, by Parliament outlines these pillars and outlines key legislative requirements for the Commission work.
Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. This work will be done under the strategic oversight of the Office of Climate Change and on technical aspects, with various land management agencies such as the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission, with close collaboration with stakeholders and community members.