Mining in Guyana

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Mining is a significant contributor to the economy of Guyana, owing to sizable reserves of bauxite, gold, and diamonds. [1] Much of these resources are found in Guyana's Hilly Sand and Clay belt, a region that makes up 20% of the country. [2]

Contents

Gold

In 2012, export receipts for gold amounted to US$1.5 billion, nearly half of the country's total export receipt value. [3] All gold mined in the country must be sold to the Guyana Gold Board, and sent abroad for refining at the Royal Canadian Mint. [4] The gold mining industry is made up of small and medium-scale operations that support as many as 12% of the population. [5]

In the 16th century, European explorers were drawn to the Guianas due to rumors of a golden city called Manoa, ruled by the golden king El Dorado. This legend instigated settling of the region, but it wasn't until the 1840s when gold was found in significant quantities. [6] After emancipation, small-scale gold mining was untaken by many newly-freed Afro-Guyanese, who still make up a significant portion of the modern mining industry. Also known as pork-knockers, these artisanal gold and diamond miners have created or been a part of the folklore in Guyana. [7]

In 1904, Peters Mine was the first mine opened in Guyana. From 1904 to 1909, it produced 39,800 ounces of gold (approximately 0.8 oz. per ton of ore), and in 1915 to 1916 produced another 1,103 ounces. Surveys conducted by U.S. geologists were favorable, but the mine was abandoned largely due to its inaccessibility. [8] Nonetheless, it remained the biggest mining operation in Guyana until Omai Mine was opened in 1993. Peters Mine was obtained in 1996 by Guyana Goldfields. [9]

Government initiatives have favored domestic gold mining operations, such as the 1989 Mining Act which encouraged many small-scale mining companies. [5] When Omai Mine closed in 2005 it was ten years until the openings of two large-scale open pit mines in 2015: Aurora gold mine, a Canadian-owned operation [5] and Troy Resources. [10]

Guyana has not been immune to many of the struggles typical of resource rich countries. The price of gold attracts workers away from agriculture labor for quick gains, the result of which can have a detrimental effect on Guyana's overall economy. [5] Boomtowns are often plagued with issues related to prostitution and excessive violence. [5] [11] Abandoned pits that accumulate water have become vector points for disease such as malaria and dengue. [10]

Gold smuggling is a perennial issue. In 2016, the Minister of Natural Resources said that "approximately 15,000 ounces of gold is being smuggled from Guyana each week" with the possibility that gold from Columbia or Venezuela is also smuggled through the country's porous borders. [12] Smugglers often go to Suriname to sell gold due to lower taxation of 1% tax and 2% royalty, compared to Guyana's 2% tax and 5% royalty. [5] Brazil and the USA are also major destination points of smuggled gold. [12] In 2012, US$11.5 million of gold was seized in Curacao. [5]

Despite government enacting a ban on the use of mercury, it is still used for gold extraction by small-scale operations. [10] A 1995 cyanide spill associated with large-scale gold mining at Omai Mines caused significant damage to the eco-system of the Highland region. [2]

Bauxite

Guyana's mines yield a high quality calcined bauxite, with uses in the refractory, abrasive and chemical markets for high temperature applications. Guyana's reserves of bauxite was known to be 350-million-tons. Major mining sites are at Linden, south of Georgetown, and Kwakwani on the Berbice River [6] [13] In 2016, 1,479,090 tonnes of bauxite was produced. [14]

Bauxite mining began in 1914 [15] and took off in the 1920s with substantial investment from large-scale, foreign operations such as Demerara Bauxite Company (Demba) owned by Canada's Alcan, and Reynolds Bauxite Company owned by Reynolds Metals of the USA. [6] Bauxite production in the 1960s was around 3 million tons per year and by the early 1970s, the two companies made up 45 percent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings. [15] After Guyana's independence from Britain, there was a political shift towards large nationalizing these large, foreign-owned industries, but the resulting government run industries suffered from poor management, commodity price fluctuation, and global competition. Production fell to 1.3 million tons by 1988. [15]

When privatization was used to improve economic prospects, majority shares were purchased once again by foreign companies. In 1985, Reynolds Bauxite Company was one of the first foreign companies to return, providing managerial assistance to Guymine at Kwakwani. [1]

Omai Bauxite Company, owned by Canadian IAMGOLD, was bought in 2007 by BOSAI, a Chinese company. [16] The other major mine in Berbice, formerly Aroaima Mining Company, is owned by Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc., a subsidiary of Russian-owned Rusal. The government maintains part ownership in both companies, 30% of Omai and 10% of Bauxite Company of Guyana.

First Bauxite Corporation made plans to develop mining at Bonasika in the Essequibo River, [17] which after delays from lack of financing, started operations in 2020. [18]

Increases in bauxite production have led to bauxite dust air pollution in the Linden area by the facility. [19]

Labor disputes have been a major issue [17] [20] and US sanctions relating to Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. [21]

Aluminum

Guyana had one alumina plant, for separating aluminum oxide from raw bauxite ore, but it closed in 1982 due as a result of "inefficient management, declining world prices for bauxite, and prolonged strikes by workers". Prior to closure, production was about 300,000 tons processed per year. [1]

Diamonds

Guyana does not have a significant diamond cutting industry so nearly all exports are rough diamonds. In 2013, rough diamond exports totaled at US$12 million (144,000 Carats). [4] The industry is mostly made up of medium-scale operations that use land dredging techniques [6] however, diamond mining has been on the decline. Historical production totals are difficult to produce due to the high rates of smuggling due to factors similarly affecting the gold industry. [22]

Diamond mining techniques are very similar to that of gold mining processes, so there is a substitution effect between gold and diamonds based on the commodity price. [10]

Other minerals

Other minerals that are mined in smaller scale include silica sand, shells, kaolin, semi-precious stone, and stone aggregate. [23] [24]

Petroleum

In 2015, a major off-shore oilfield was discovered by Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd. (a subsidiary of ExxonMobil of the United States, 45%; Hess Corporation of the United States, 30%; and CNOOC Ltd. of China, 25%). The Liza oilfield discovery was considered to be one of the biggest crude petroleum finds of the decade. In 2016, ExxonMobil announced Esso has discovered additional high-quality oil-bearing sandstone resources in the offshore Stabroek Block of the oilfield. [25]

Major Production Overview

Mining production, 2009-13 [26]
20092010201120122013
Gold (kg)9,325.89,542.911,293.413,643.714,963.8
Bauxite (tonnes)1,448,0001,010,0001,827,0002,210,0001,694,000
Diamond (carats)143,90049,90052,30040,70055,927

Important Organizations

Related Research Articles

Economy of Suriname

The economy of Suriname was largely dependent upon the exports of aluminium oxide and small amounts of aluminium produced from bauxite mined in the country. However, after the departure of Alcoa, the economy depended on the exports of crude oil and gold. Suriname was ranked the 124th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings.

Economy of Guyana National economy

The economy of Guyana is the fastest growing in the world with a projected GDP growth of 26.2% in 2020. Guyana had a per capita gross domestic product of $8,300 in 2016 and an average GDP growth of 4.2% over the previous decade. Crude oil production started in 2019.

Port Kaituma Place in Barima-Waini, Guyana

Port Kaituma is a small town within the Barima-Waini administrative region of Guyana. It became known internationally as a gateway village to the People's Temple settlement at Jonestown. It has long been a hub for mining in the area.

Matthews Ridge, Guyana Place in Barima-Waini, Guyana

Matthews Ridge is a small town within the Barima-Waini administrative region of Guyana. The village name comes from the name of a public official, Matthew Young, as well as the ridges in the area. The village is divided into three sections, Heaven’s Hill, Hell Hill and the valley.

Linden, Guyana Town and regional capital in Upper Demerara-Berbice, Guyana

Linden is the second largest city in Guyana after Georgetown, and capital of the Upper Demerara-Berbice region, located at 6°0′0″N58°18′0″W, altitude 48 metres (160 feet). It was declared a town in 1970, and includes the communities of MacKenzie, Christianburg, and Wismar. It lies on the Demerara River and has a population of 27,277 as of 2012. It is primarily a bauxite mining town, containing many mines 60–90 metres deep, with many other pits now in disuse. Linden is the regional capital of Upper Demerara-Berbice.

Ituni Town in the interior of Guyana

Ituni is a town in the interior of Guyana, at an altitude of 100 metres (331 feet). The area grew as a result of bauxite mining in the area.

Potaro River

The Potaro River is a river in Guyana that runs from Mount Ayanganna area of the Pakaraima Mountains for approximately 225 km (140 mi) before flowing into the Essequibo River, Guyana's largest river. The renown Kaieteur Falls is on the Potaro.

Arakaka Community in Barima-Waini, Guyana

Arakaka is a community in the Barima-Waini region of Guyana, standing on the Barima River and 12 miles southerly of Port Kaituma, at an altitude of 63 metres (209 feet).

Mahdia, Guyana Town and regional capital in Potaro-Siparuni, Guyana

Mahdia is the capital of the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana, located near the centre of the country at an altitude of 415 metres (1,362 ft).

Mining industry of Ghana

The Mining industry of Ghana accounts for 5% of the country's GDP and minerals make up 37% of total exports, of which gold contributes over 90% of the total mineral exports. Thus, the main focus of Ghana's mining and minerals development industry remains focused on gold. Ghana is Africa's largest gold producer, producing 80.5 t in 2008. Ghana is also a major producer of bauxite, manganese and diamonds. Ghana has 23 large-scale mining companies producing gold, diamonds, bauxite and manganese, and, there are also over 300 registered small scale mining groups and 90 mine support service companies.

The Oko River is a river of Guyana, a tributary of the Wenamu River and a part of the middle-Mazaruni.

Mining in Sierra Leone

The mining industry of Sierra Leone accounted for 4.5 percent of the country's GDP in 2007 and minerals made up 79 percent of total export revenue with diamonds accounting for 46 percent of export revenue in 2008. The main minerals mined in Sierra Leone are diamonds, rutile, bauxite, gold, iron and limonite.

The Toroparu mine is estimated to be one of the largest gold mining projects in Guyana. The mine is located in the north-west of the country in Cuyuni-Mazaruni. The mine has estimated reserves of 6 million oz of gold.

Omai Mine

The Omai Gold Mine is located in Guyana on the north coast of South America near the west bank of the Essequibo River in the interior of the country. Access to Omai is by road from the capital of Georgetown on the coast, and from the town of Linden approximately 60 km away. There is an operational airstrip on site which can accommodate aircraft from Georgetown. Gold mining at Omai is known from at least the 1880s, and when it was developed as a large scale mine in 1992 by Cambior, the mine was the largest gold mine in the Guiana Shield and a major source of income and employment in Guyana. During the period from 1992 – 2005, Omai produced 3.7 Moz of gold at an average grade of 1.5 g/t Au from the Fennell and the Wenot open pits.

Pork-knockers are freelance Guyanese prospectors who mine for diamonds and gold in the alluvial plains of the Guyanese interior. Pork-knockers have been responsible for discovering large deposits of gold and diamonds. The name "pork-knockers" refers to their regular diet of pickled pork of wild pig that is often eaten at the end of the day. Caribbean author A. R. F. Webber suggested that the term may have originated as "pork-barrel knocker".

Mining industry of Guinea

The mining industry of Guinea was developed during colonial rule. The minerals extracted consisted of iron, gold, diamond, and bauxite. Guinea ranks first in the world in bauxite reserves and 6th in the extraction of high-grade bauxite, the aluminium ore. The mining industry and exports of mining products accounted for 17% of Guinea’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010. Mining accounts for over 50% of its exports. The country accounts for 94% of Africa’s mining production of bauxite. The large mineral reserve, which has mostly remained untapped, is of immense interest for international firms.

Mining industry of Tanzania

Tanzania is a land rich in minerals. Mining makes up more than 50% of the country's total exports, of which a large part comes from gold. The country has gold reserves of 45 million ounces, generating revenue of over a billion USD. Diamonds are also found in significant amounts. Since it was opened in 1940, the Williamson diamond mine has produced 19 million carats (3,800 kg) of diamonds. Gemstones, nickel, copper, uranium, kaolin, titanium, cobalt and platinum are also mined in Tanzania. Illegal mining and corruption are ongoing problems. In 2017, the government passed a series of bills aimed at increasing revenue from minerals after a scandal which caused the dismissal of the Minister for Energy and Minerals.

Mining industry of Togo

The mining industry of Togo is centred mainly around the extraction of phosphate, ranking it 19th in world production. Other minerals extracted are diamond, gold, and limestone. More minerals identified but yet to be brought into production mode are manganese, bauxite, gypsum, iron ore, marble, rutile, and zinc. The mineral sector contributes 2.8% to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Issano Village in Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Guyana

Issano is a village of Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Guyana. It's located along the Mazaruni River, and is a hub for mining.

Isseneru Amerindian Village in Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Guyana

Isseneru is an Amerindian settlement in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni region of Guyana, approximately 15–20 miles west of Kurupung.

References

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