Digging for gold - Guyana Artisanal Mining Symposium

Guyana Mining School in collaboration with the Australian High Commission, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources hosted an Australian Caribbean Mining Symposium "Towards A Green Development Strategy, Ensuring Decent Work Environments For Artisanal And Small- Scale Miners.”

The symposium brought together individuals and organizations from different segments of the mining industry – government, industry, academia and civil society organisations and others affiliated with mining. The aim was to learn from one another, and especially to involve the small-scale mining sector through their syndicates, the Guyana Women Miners Organisation, and other representatives.

Guyana is well endowed with deposits of gold, bauxite, diamonds, it’s mineral wealth also includes: semi-precious stones, kaolin, silica sand, soap stone, kyanite, feldspar, mica, ilmenite, laterite, manganese radioactive minerals, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, iron, and nickel, among others. The major mineral commodities comprise gold, bauxite and diamond gold accounting for over 75% of the mining sector value. In 2016, 712,707.29 ounces of gold was declared of which close to 70% was mined by artisanal and small-scale miners. This highlights ASM gold mining as a priority area that requires improved prospecting, processing, governance, women’s participation, regulation, environmental management, health and safety and capital, to ultimately improve livelihoods and contribute to sustainable socio-economic development.

Several presentations and discussions focussed on possible interaction between ASM and Medium and Large-Scale Mining. Presentations were delivered on how large scale mining can support investment in training, practical apprenticeship programs, and capacity building. Prof. Williams, Centre for Exploration Targeting, The University of Western Australia showed how he has applied planning and techniques from the LSM sector to professionalize ASM. The role of geophysical mapping in improving the revenues of ASM, and thereby enabling people to invest in their communities was put forward.

Because it is clear: digging without knowing where the gold is, is a financial loss.

It was also clear that involving ASM miners in projects aimed at more responsible ASM requires a lot of time in discussing and planning with the ASM miners in the field, and collecting data about their actual practices and revenues. Presentations were given on global examples that show military suppression of ASM, or wishing it away, do not work, and may even have adverse effects in increasing public health problems, violence and illicit practices in ASM communities.

Participants considered how ASM can be more environmentally responsible - including alternatives to mercury and circular economy. This was followed by discussions on gender mainstreaming of the legal framework as a good first step, but insufficient by itself for ensuring that women and men reap equal benefits from the ASM sector particularly if prejudice and Gender Based Violence continue to exist. Of note is the  Guyana Women Miners Organisation – GWMO that not only involves women who are actual miners, but also women who address different social topics aimed at enhancing the social benefits of mining and reducing adverse social impacts, such as trafficking in persons.

The symposium was a good opportunity to have multi-stakeholder discussions on how to transform the ASM sector so that it is environmentally responsible and supports inclusive sustainable socio-economic development.

(Adapted from the Symposium Communique drafted by Marieke Heemskerk)

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