Omai strikes gold but nation still clueless about contract terms


File Photo: A pit in the Omai property area, Potaro, Region Seven.

Kaieteur News – Omai Gold Mines Limited yesterday announced a massive discovery of high-grade gold in its abandoned Wenot pit at Cuyuni, Region Seven, with the promised findings originating from unassayed core from a 2012 drilling programme that had been preserved by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
While this may seem like promising news, Guyanese have no clue what benefits they will reap from this massive find as the contract signed between Omai and the government remains shrouded in secrecy although it should have been made public as part of Guyana’s requirements as an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) member.
Under the EITI’s contractual requirements, Guyana is mandated to publicize all natural resources contracts and licences that provide the terms attached to the exploitation of oil, gas and minerals.
But to date the contract has not been published.
Nonetheless, Omai in a release on Tuesday announced that the assayed results from the first two of these holes drilled, 12WED11 and 12WED13, which were never logged or sampled, indicate that high-grade mineralization extends below the Wenot Pit and there is expansion potential of gold mineralization to new sedimentary targets.
“Visible gold was encountered in hole 12WED11. Highest assay values include 29.19 g/t Au over 1 meter from 460 to 461 meters. Hole 12WED13 intersected 4.5 meters of 2.93 g/t Au from 54 to 58.5 meters to the south of the Wenot Pit in sedimentary rocks, where there has been no previous exploration,” Omai stated.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Omai Gold Mines, Mario Stifano, was quoted as saying, “We are very pleased that the results from these two holes confirm that high-grade gold continues beyond the limits of the Wenot shear and the Wenot Pit to the south within the sedimentary package, and that mineralization from the Wenot Pit continues at least 150 meters below the depth of the historical pit that was mined.”
These results, Stifano added, supports Omai’s planned initial 5,000-meter drill programme expected to commence at the beginning of 2020. The company had abandoned operations here but announced its return back in October.
Though its return was met with high praise, the prospect of huge investments and job creation for Guyanese, Omai over two decades had exploited Guyana and its resources and caused considerable damage to the environment.
On August 19, 1995 a man-made environmental disaster had occurred in the Omai Mines; the walls of an earthen tailings pond, constructed to contain cyanide utilized in the gold-mining industry became breached. More than 400 million gallons of cyanide-laced material spilled into the Omai River and subsequently into the Essequibo, the country’s largest river.
The spill resulted in severe environmental, ecological, social, economic and political consequences. Added to that, from 1993 the company commenced actual extraction of gold, and during its 24-year run, the company extracted some 3.7 million ounces of gold but only paid five percent of that in royalties to Guyana.
Had the terms of its contract for the lucrative gold mine entailed more benefits for Guyana, the country would have reaped billions of US dollars. To make matters worse, the company also benefitted from a slew of tax, fuel and vehicular concessions—totaling millions of Guyanese dollars.

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