Guyana has long been known as a producer of both gold and diamonds for centuries. However, it wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century that Guyana started to receive attention from mining companies around the world. For a period of approximately 25 years, the country went into an economic depression under the leadership of “President for Life” Forbes Burnham. After the first declared free elections in the early 1990’s, the country began its climb out of debt and into economic growth. Today it has a thriving economy centered around mining, oil and gas exploration, rice and sugar exports.
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) oversees the mining industry and has implemented modern mining practices and codes of operation. It has a vast database of geologic information with which it assists mining companies such as Dream Hole Mining. Through public declarations of diamond and gold production one can ascertain that diamond and gold mining have contributed heavily to the economy.
For many decades, mining was the domain of the small one man prospector, referred to as “pork-knockers”. These pork-knockers worked, and continue working today in the remote parts of the jungle of Guyana, mostly in small camps of one to four men. Using basic equipment and living under tarps, these pork-knockers will spend several months recovering diamonds and gold, then carry them to the capital of Georgetown or Bartica where they sell their collection before returning to the interior.
Today, gold mining has become much more sophisticated with the arrival of several large publicly traded companies. These companies have invested tens of millions of dollars into their exploration and collectively have proven nearly 30 million ounces of gold within their prospecting areas. These companies are doing what is referred as “hard rock mining” in which they are digging open pits up to 1,500’ deep to blast granite and quartz veins where the gold is located. This is a very expensive and labor intensive method, but through their underground geologic surveys, they’ve proven large quantities of gold to exist and therefore can justify the heavy capital investment.
Many popular mining companies in the area conduct alluvial or placer mining. This is the search for loose or “free” gold which is found loosely in the sandstone material in the claim areas. Alluvial mining has been conducted on a commercial scale for hundreds of years and for many years in the 20th century produced the most diamonds in the world. Both diamonds and gold in the alluvial deposits come close to the surface, therefore considerably heavy equipment is not required.