… to also relook at mining regulationsFollowing a high-level meeting with a number of mining organisations and syndicates, the Government has decided to take steps to review not only an unpopular hike in the gold processing fee, but the mining regulations as well.The meeting, which saw Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman in attendance, was held on Friday at Cara Lodge. Present at the meeting were members of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association (GGDMA), the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation (GMWO) and representatives from various mining syndicates.Protesters in front of the GGMC a few months ago, calling for the heads of top officialsIt is understood that a number of concerns were raised, including issues of taxation, issues related to the functioning of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the state of interior roads, the Guyana Gold Board’s processing fee, revision of mining regulations, security for miners and mining lands for syndicates.Present also at the meeting was Chairman of the Board of the Guyana Gold Board, G H K Lall. According to a statement from the Ministry, it was agreed at the meeting that the gold processing fee would be reviewed, with Trotman promising to find a rate that was reasonable at all levels of mining.In addition, it was related that Trotman took a decision to resuscitate a committee headed by Natural Resources Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Joslyn McKenzie. The committee will also see members of the body of miners in attendance, who will propose reviews of the regulations. Trotman also committed to addressing some of the issues with his colleague Cabinet Ministers to bring them to a resolution.”The mining industry has been beset by problems from a number of directions, leading up to a statistical review in the 2017 Mid-year report. According to the report, the mining and quarrying sector contracted by four per cent during the first half of 2017. Gold production, it noted, fell by 1.7 per cent to 317,096 ounces, in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016.It is understood that of the total gold declared, 65.7 per cent came from small- and medium-sized miners and dealers whose declarations were above projections, while Guyana’s two large gold companies – Guyana Goldfields and Troy Resources – were below projections.FeesIt was recently revealed that all miners, including small- and medium-scale miners, will have to pay a hiked processing fee of $2500 per ounce of gold they declare to the Guyana Gold Board. The fee was previously just $1000 per ounce.Had the GGDMA not intervened when a public notice announcing the hike first appeared in the daily newspapers, that fee would have been a whopping $4000 per ounce.According to a missive from Avalon Jagnandan, the Administrative Manager at the GGDMA, the Association first became aware of the hike when a public notice appeared in the newspaper declaring that all miners and dealers selling gold to the Gold Board would have to pay the $4000 fee.TaxesFor some time, miners have been raising issues such as the spike in taxes across the board implemented by the Government; in particular, the increase of the Tributors Tax from 10 to 20 per cent, Value Added Tax on heavy-duty mining equipment and the two per cent Withholding Tax.In addition, the Association had complained of not being able to benefit from the grant of duty-free concessions on mining equipment, vehicles and fuel, owing to the red tape experienced at the regulatory agencies involved.RoadsIn June, a group of truck operators made their grievances regarding the state of the interior roads known at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Church Street, Georgetown.The truckers had complained that some trips which formerly took those two days to complete were now taking triple that time. And while it wasn’t the only factor, the poor state of the roads was driving up their maintenance costs to the point where they cut back on their operations.But declaring that overweight trucks are chiefly responsible for wreaking havoc on interior roads in Guyana, Government had announced that moves will be made to amend the relevant laws in order to enforce weight limits on the roadways.GGMC protestsAlso in June, small miners had protested in front of the GGMC’S Brickdam office. The small miners had contended that they are being neglected by the GGMC and had accused the organisation of being corrupt.They had called for the sacking of acting Commissioner, Newell Dennison and his Technical Adviser, Donald Singh. The miners had also alleged that they have been unable to mine for years since their applications are not being looked at.