Small Man goes where the large fears to tread: Mining in Guyana: 1990-2018

Tim Laing

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Mining in Guyana has grown exponentially in the last 25 years, becoming the dominant export industry and engine for growth. Guyana's pathway to economic domination by mineral extraction has taken a distinctly different path from other mineral-intensive countries in that the majority of extraction has been from small and medium scale operators. A single Canadian-owned gold mine was the only representation of the large-scale sector for much of the time period. Guyana's unique mining industry has evolved as a result of the increasing international gold price, its political history and crucially government policy that legalised, regulated and encouraged small and medium scale activity much more prominently than large-scale activities. Chief to this policy position was the establishment of a legislative framework that creates a structure for Guyanese small and medium scale miners to obtain property rights and mine legally. This paper draws on interview evidence and secondary data to reflect upon the impact that this policy position has had upon the economic, social and environmental consequences of the growth of the mining industry in the country. Economically the policy helped to maintain value within Guyana, but may not have fully insulated the country from the resource curse. Although a large value was created for consumption by Guyanese miners and their families, little of this was captured by government for investment in long-term infrastructure. The industry also provided a valuable source of employment for low-skilled local labour, helping to absorb individuals from diminishing industries such as sugar. Socially the industry has created problems such as prostitution, human trafficking and crime, especially in remote areas. However, it may have proved as an important safety valve, providing income and activity for otherwise disaffected low-skilled individuals. Environmentally the industry has created problems due to mercury pollution and deforestation but there is space within the legislative structure for the industry to become an agent of change for restoration and land reclamation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101426
    JournalResources Policy
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019


    • Guyana
    • Mining legislation
    • Mining policy
    • Small-scale mining


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