Former Amerindian Affairs Minister under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Pauline Sukhai, has called on the Government to do all that is within its power to facilitate the survival of the mining industry, especially for small operators. When she addressed the National Assembly during the 2019 Budget debates last week, the PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) imparted that policymakers ensure that small miners have improved access to roadways linked to their mining lands.“Small miners in Bartica and Mahdia are facing a very difficult time because when they are awarded lands, they have not been assisted with investments to open roads. Investments in roads for small miners needs to be addressed and because I work in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), I will ask the Minister to look into the case of those small miners who are located in the Black Water location where they cannot access the areas that were assigned to them; this is real Mr Speaker,” the MP stressed.Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s Budget presentation highlighted that Guyana’s mining and forestry sectors do not exist in isolation but according to Sukhai, an assessment of the proposals shows “little or no incentive” for addressing the mining sector, whether for large or small-scale miners. She opined that the plight of the small miners was being ignored by those in authority even though these small operators are Guyana’s “home grown investors.”“What the APNU/AFC (A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change) Government first sought to do is apply increased taxes; in the next year, they… sought to remove some of the taxes but what they did not do is to remove is to remove the VAT (Value Added Tax) on mining equipment and goods that are used in the mining sector which has affected many small miners and today they are slowly being eroded out of a stable livelihood,” the Opposition representative told the House last week.What she harped on was that many pockets of small miners, include women, have their livelihoods “being eroded everyday by the high cost of fuel, good and services by high costs of spares for their mining equipment.” She said that those managing the sector should continue to find solutions to these matters and she called for more investments in training staff at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) which serves as the regulator for the sector.“I notice that the allocation has been allocated for them (GGMC) to advance their objectives – this laudable this is necessary, but I have great difficulty agreeing with the current approach that exists and I think that some of the investments should go towards empowering, educating and ensuring that the regulators and monitors understand the complexity of the sector,” she stressed.Mahdia minersSpeaking on the plight of miners in Mahdia, which lies in Region Eight, Sukhai said these operators want both the Government and the GGMC to see it as a body that wants to help them.This was in response to when the small miners protested the GGMC seizing their equipment in October of this year. GGMC operatives had raided Mahdia and surrounding communities and seized equipment based on alleged breached of mining protocols. The miners however expressed that the long waiting period for permits and the alleged corruption by GGMC officers had left them non-compliant with regulations. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had labelled the GGMC’s actions an “unconscionable assault”.“These small miners were faced with camps being burned, equipment seized sluice boxes being destroyed. What is hurtful is that then they are charged hefty fees to recover damaged equipment,” the MP stated.Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney AllicockShe also called on Government to foster for business opportunities for Indigenous people as well as calling on Government to amend the Amerindian Act. Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock responding to the Opposition’s concerns told the House that Government was working with Indigenous stakeholders on revising the Act.He also made remarks on the economic development of villages and noted that the Administration is working towards the eradication of poverty, having observed that some $1 billion was injected in 154 communities and villages. He said that the money was allocated towards agriculture production, tourism, manufacturing, village based enterprise, and other programmes.“In 2019, the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs will continue to provide training in financial accountability, leadership and capacity to overcome challenges some villages faced in these projects while strengthening the positives such as knowledge implementation and business management among the beneficiaries,” he outlined.He stated that Budget 2019 will see the investment of $375 million to equip hinterland communities via satellites which will benefit over 11,392 residents. “$38.5 billion is to expand and maintain the infrastructure. $101 million allocated to continue to extend the electrification programme. There will also be the drilling of wells in the hinterland communities benefiting residents in over 200 communities,” Allicock explained to his fellow MPs.