Situated in the Guyana Shield, a region famous that is for its valuable minerals, Guyana has attracted international interest from some of the world’s largest mining companies. In this article, we will explore the country’s natural deposits with a focus on Guyana’s gold, diamond, and bauxite mining industries.
Gold Mining Industry
Guyana is regarded by many leading gold mining companies as one of the world’s most prospective and under-explored gold bearing nations. In the decade from 2005 to 2014, gold mining contributed, on average, $350 million each year to Guyana’s economy.
Guyana’s gold mining industry dates back to 1849, when gold was discovered in Essequibo. The Guyanese Superintendent of Rivers and Creeks subsequently announced these discoveries, which attracted prospectors to the region.
Soon afterward, B.V. Abraham, the proprietor of a Georgetown jewelry store, received permission from the government to start prospecting for gold in the Cuyuni River. He set up equipment at Waririe, located on the Cuyuni’s right bank, and gathered small quantities of gold, although this proved insufficient to cover his $75,000 initial outlay.
Abraham soon realized that his venture was unsustainable on the small quantities of gold that he recovered. He requested financial relief from the Court of Policy, but his request was denied.
In spite of significant challenges and setbacks, Abraham remained convinced that there were large quantities of gold in the region. He was firmly of the view that all he needed was more capital investment.
Subsequently, B.V. Abraham traveled to England. There, he tried to convince business contacts to invest in his company. Upon publication of a report by geologists Sawkins and Brown, however, English investors were discouraged because it stated that Guyana was unlikely to produce gold in large quantities.
In addition, the ruling British government subsequently announced a halt on mining activities in the region where Abraham had become situated. Due to ongoing territorial claims from the Venezuelan government, Britain agreed to pull out of the area.
Nonetheless, Abraham returned to Guyana and formed a business partnership with a Portuguese woodcutter named D’Amil. They continued mining in secret, and both became very wealthy.
During the late 1800s, modest amounts of gold were discovered at various locations throughout Guyana. In 1889, Governor Viscount Gormanston announced that the British government no longer recognized Venezuela’s territorial claim. He created a new administrative area known as the North West District, and gold miners rushed to the region, particularly the Potaro, where significant amounts of gold were discovered.
Bauxite Mining Industry
Considerably less glamorous than gold or diamonds, Guyana’s bauxite industry is still big business. Bauxite is a type of sedimentary rock with a high aluminum content. It is mined predominantly throughout Guyana, Indonesia, China, Jamaica, Brazil, Vietnam, Australia, and Guinea. The mineral is usually collected through strip mining since it is found near the Earth’s surface with little to no overburden.
One of the primary uses of bauxite is in the production of aluminum. It is commonly used in the chemical, cement, refractory, steel, abrasive, and petrol industries.
Throughout the 1970s, Guyana established a reputation as the world’s leading supplier of bauxite. With an estimated reserve of 350 million tons, Guyana’s bauxite mining industry has attracted significant foreign investment over the years, with mining companies from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Norway and Australia funding exploration and mining operations throughout the country.
Diamond Mining Industry
In 1596, the voyage of Sir Walter Raleigh, a British explorer, led to El Dorado, or the “City of Gold,” an area believed to be in present-day Guyana. Diamond mining began in Guyana in the late 1800s in the Upper Mazaruni River. Diamond production in Guyana peaked in the 1920s, when more than 200,000 carats of the precious stone were declared annually.
Guyana’s existing diamond mines are found in the Guiana Highlands, an area that incorporates the country’s four mountain ranges: the Pakaraima, Acarai, Kanuku, and Imataka. Today, Guyana produces approximately 35,000 carats of diamonds annually.
Other Minerals Mined in Guyana
Regions of Guyana feature deposits of semi-precious stones, as well as reserves of copper, tungsten, radioactive minerals, kaolin, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, and iron.
Guyana’s mining and quarrying industry represents a significant proportion of the country’s economy, contributing approximately 15.4% of its GDP. In 2016, Guyana’s extractive industries accounted for around 52% of the country’s total exports.
Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Supports the Country’s Mining Industry
As Guyana’s leading bank, the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) has a successful history dating back to the establishment of British Guiana’s first commercial bank.
The organization supports Guyana’s mining sector and
helps local businesspeople to establish and expand their ventures.
In response to requests from local small-scale mining operations, the Guyana Gold Board opened its new Port Kaituma facilities on February 3, 2020. These new offices, which are located within the GBTI building at Turn Basin, feature facilities to test and buy gold, and also provide a vital hub for small miners operating in the region.