– increased Police, military presence in hinterland– tax waivers for green mining technology; assistance for minersBy Jarryl BryanThe draft National Mining Policy has been released, and with it, a plethora of recommendations, including a crucial one that urges Government to seek a consensus with the parliamentary Opposition on the policy, to insulate it from the effects of a possible change of Government.The 134-page document was compiled by University of Guyana Lecturer Sherwood Lowe and former Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Commissioners William Woolford and Karen Livan. Under the implementation risk assessment section, it stated that a change of Government is identified as one of the political risks, as well as Cabinet reshuffle and changes in national priorities.To mitigate these risks, the document urges the Government to pursue “multi-party parliamentary endorsement of policies; full Cabinet endorsement; full public disclosure and long-term strategic planning.”As the document has been made available to the public by the Natural Resources Ministry, at least one of these recommendations has been followed. It is unclear whether the parliamentary Opposition has been approached regarding the policy.According to the policy, these include financial, institutional, market, compliance, geological and security risks. Under compliance, the policy advises that miners be exposed to targeted education and encouragement.While it was recommended that stakeholders and the community become more involved in compliance management, the policy also urges stricter enforcement of laws in a sector that was once described as a ‘Wild West.’Noting that there are security risks posed by Trafficking in Persons (TIP), mining operators raiding neighbouring camps and stealing gold through intimidation and violent crime, the policy recommended increased Police and military attention and operations in mining areas. In addition, the policy speaks to using residents in communities as the “eyes and ears” on the ground for the authorities.When it comes to financial risks, the policy recommends that long-term budget planning and prioritisation of goals and actions are done to prevent budgets for work plans being unavailable or only partly approved by the GGMC or the Ministry.In terms of the institutional risk, it called for capacity building at the GGMC that included the use of external staff; including retirees, Private Sector and sister organisations. It was also advised that an interagency committee be set up to help coordinate decision-making that would include border security, health and law enforcement. To keep track of these initiatives, the policy advocates the use of monitoring and progress reports.Lastly, the policy recommended that continuous and systematic regional exploration and mineral resource assessments be carried out by the GGMC. It was noted that uncertainties about the existence and exploitability of undiscovered mineral resources are geological risks.RecommendationsOne recommendation that the policy document speaks of is introducing a scheme to provide assistance to miners in order to increase mechanisation. It also advises that tax waivers for green mining technology be expanded, in addition to the reach and resources of the Guyana Mining School.“Amend mining regulations to favour specification of equipment and process over mere performance standards,” the report states, adding that efforts should be made to “continue research on gold mining recovery options.”The document adds that Government should “make tax concessions on fuel, spares, machinery and equipment predictable and more attuned to the various classes of Small and medium-scale (SMS) miners. Build sealed roads based on a priority list for coastal hinterland activity. Build feeder roads for internal access to new mining grounds.”Right of appealThe report also makes a crucial recommendation that changes should be made to the process used by miners to appeal GGMC decisions. It notes that given the connections between the GGMC and the Minister, this may pose problems.“The Ministry, for example, has staff on GGMC’s Board and committees. Appeals should best be made to an independent agency, such as the proposed Inspector General for the GGMC,” the policy states.Giving its rationale for such an office, the policy observes that the support of an independent Inspector General (IG) can help the Geology and Mines Commission improve its responsiveness to the public and stakeholders. It also listed some proposed functions, including conducting and supervising audits and investigations relating to GGMC.Some specific functions, according to the policy, would also include receiving and investigating complaints from miners and general public against the GGMC. It warns that the office be kept spate and insulated.“The IG office shall be independent of and external to the GGMC and [Ministry of Natural Resources] MNR. It shall be empowered to prepare its own annual budget, which will be a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund, set its own internal rules and procedures and be answerable to the National Assembly,” the policy advises.