…gold declarations plummetBy Samuel SukhnandanThe Government of Guyana could be forced to revise the country’s growth rate downwards as a result of the fall in gold declarations for the year 2017 and the sector’s overall sluggish performance.This is according to Finance Minister Winston Jordan who advised that Guyana recorded some 653,754 ounces of gold in 2017, which indicates that gold declarations fell short of the projected of 720,000 ounces.Finance Minister Winston Jordan“It will have an impact on the growth with both sugar and gold not coming in on target. It means we will have to revise last year’s growth rate even further and it will put some strain on the growth for 2018,” he stated.Sugar output in Guyana fell by nearly a quarter from last year, with close to 140,000 metric tonnes being produced in 2017, which is the lowest in 27 years. The decline happened at a time when the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is preparing to permanently close three of its six estates and fire about 4673 of its 15,000-member workforce. Other workers numbering close to 1000 could also be laid off this year as the Government embarks on its downsizing initiative.Jordan said the economy was expected to grow by 2.9 per cent, failing to meet the revised growth projection of 3.1 per cent for 2017. The initial projected growth of the economy was 3.8 per cent, but this was revised by midyear to 3.1 per cent after the economy only grew by 2.2 per cent in July of 2017.Making reference to gold, the Minister said however there were several impediments that led to a fall in gold declaration, stating that accessibility for miners was one of the major factors. Nevertheless, Jordan said he is confident that the country’s gold production would climb again this year due to good prices and improved access.“…we have budgeted over $1.5 billion, part of which is for clear access both to forest and mining areas. Prices are still good. So it’s not a case they don’t have a natural incentive to produce more as such. So, first of all we believe it’s going to be better this year. We are hoping it’s just an aberration because with prices where they are, you ought to be seeing far more declaration that we are seeing right now,” he added.With improved access to new gold bearing areas in the interior regions; this will also help with meeting this objective, Jordan said. “… so perhaps we need work to be done about new gold bearing areas. Because I don’t really know if they have a map as to how really and truly are the gold bearing areas…like for example with oil. So, here especially with artesian mining it could be a hit and miss story.”The Guyana Gold Board (GGB) has blamed poor roads and inclement weather for the fall in gold declaration. According to General Manager of the GGB, Eondrene Thompson, there were several inhibitions that led to this performance, but she made a commitment to addressing it.“The roadways into the interior… were bad and as such persons were unable to buy their supplies to take into the interior,” Thompson told the Department of Public Information. Additionally, several operators parked their dredges and were waiting on the roads to be fixed.The GCB plans to launch a campaign to improve declarations. Thompson said, “We will embark on PR work, let the miners know the importance of selling their gold to the Guyana Gold Board.” This campaign is not only to get miners to sell to the GGB but to have them use licensed agents.“We have persons around who they sell to or who they are working for and still not declaring to the Guyana Gold Board so we intend to educate the miners and let them know it is good, it is right to sell to the Guyana Gold Board.” The GGB is also considering providing incentives to miners who sell to them.Thompson explained, “Our regulatory overseas body would like to know that. They would want to monitor the gold from the mine to the market so we will have persons educating the miners and showing them the advantages of producing documentation where they mine”.Government hopes that 712,706 ounces of gold will be declared in 2018.