NATIONAL Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has been meeting with executives of the Russian aluminum giant, RUSAL, to discuss dividends owed by its subsidiary, Bauxite Company of Guyana Limited (BCGI), in which the Guyana Government has a 10 per cent share.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, meanwhile, has criticised claims by RUSAL executives that the company has not been making a profit during the 15 years that it has been operating in Guyana.
Head of NICIL, Colvin Heath-London, said NICIL last met with the company last Thursday, and is expected to meet again next Wednesday as the discussions continue.
“We are now in discussions with RUSAL. I cannot elaborate on those discussions but you would know in due time what has materialised out of those discussions,” Heath-London said. Heath-London said that it was out of the consideration of the government’s shares in BCGI that prompted NICIL to, last week, pay the 326 Guyanese employees that were fired by the company their February salaries.
“NICIL is a shareholder in [BCGI] and it is important that we ensure that while the discussions are going on that they [the workers] are looked after,” Heath-London related.
He said that the venture, which cost over $30M, was a one-off payment and not something that NICIL is looking to continue on a long term basis. The employees were fired on February 2, without notice by BCGI, which at the same time, suspended operations at its Kurubuka mines in Region 10.
The employees for one month now have been vigilantly maintaining a blockade across a section of the Berbice River which prevents the company from shipping any material or equipment from the mines. The employees have long since been convinced that the company is shutting down its operations entirely, and is attempting to ship as much as possible out of Guyana before doing so.
BCGI has not responded to an email for a response on the allegations.
Aside from NICIL, over the past year BCGI has come under investigations by the Department of Labour, for labour and union-related issues, as well as the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) which had been investigating the company for abuses of tax concessions.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) have also been looking into operations at the company as part of a wider assessment of the country’s entire bauxite industry.
Heath-London relayed that he is “not aware that RUSAL has been paying dividends, if there are dividends to be paid,” during the time he has been at NICIL, upholding statements made by BCGI Executive, Vladimir Permyakov, last year February, that BCGI had not been paying dividends to the government on its shares. At the time Permyakov had said that the company was not making any profit, notwithstanding operating in Guyana since 2006.
Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, however says he does not buy those claims of no profit.
“That statement has always been made by a number of investors coming to Guyana. Some who have eventually left, they say ‘oh we’ve operated 15 years and we haven’t made a profit’. We don’t buy that nonsense. Profit seekers aren’t that giving, you won’t stick around 15 years and you aren’t making a profit,” Jordan stated. He noted however, that monies from the bauxite industry does not come under the remit of the Ministry of Finance as it is not paid over to the consolidated fund. Jordan acknowledged, however, that greater monitoring of the bauxite sector is needed to ensure that the companies are remitting to Guyana what is owed.
“When it comes to our own oversight and supervision, we haven’t been very great in that department. And partly being because of human resources issues,” he explained.
BCGI is one of three foreign-owned bauxite mining companies in Guyana that have been granted licenses to operate; the other two being the Chinese-owned Bosai Minerals Group (Guyana) Inc. in Linden and the newest company, Guyana Industrial Minerals (GINMIN), a subsidiary of American company, First Bauxite.
NICIL’s meetings with RUSAL comes months after Bosai was noted for remitting US$3M to NICIL on dividends owed.