Natural resources, energy and environment
In recent years, large quantities of oil and
natural gas have been found off the coast of Guyana and
the first commercial oil was pumped up in December 2019.
Guyana is also rich in gold, bauxite, diamonds and other
minerals. Mining causes serious environmental problems.
It has long been assumed that there could be oil and
natural gas both on land and in the waters off Guyana.
Exploration was hindered by the border conflicts with
Surinam and Venezuela (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
But in 2008, several foreign oil companies launched
offshore test drilling in offshore areas that the United
Nations Court of Appeal awarded to Guyana. The first
news of large deposits came in May 2015 and thereafter a
number of oil and natural gas sources were found. A
consortium led by energy giant Exxon Mobil handles the
Major exports by Guyana with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
At the beginning of 2020, oil exports from Guyana
began, which is expected to be a significant oil
exporter. The oil is drastically changing the economic
conditions in the country (see Current policy).
Gold has already been an important export commodity.
In the 1990s, gold mining increased, multiplied and
after liberalizing the market, Canadian mining companies
invested in large-scale production at the Omai mine. The
quarry was the largest in South America, but in 2005 it
was considered empty and the mine was closed. It has
later changed ownership and reopened.
In 2015 and 2016 another Canadian-owned mine and an
Australian-owned mine were opened - together they
accounted for just over a third of the gold mining.
Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, GY stands for Guyana.
Inland, thousands of gold miners also work on their
own with sink boilers and other simple tools, and small
and medium-sized companies have taken over most of the
gold extraction. Before oil sales started, gold
accounted for almost half of Guyana's export earnings.
It has also brightened for the bauxite industry,
where development was long weak after nationalization in
the 1970s and 1980s. A Russian and a Chinese company
account for most of the mining of bauxite, a rock from
which aluminum is extracted. Guyana's bauxite is of high
quality, but production and transportation are expensive
due to the inaccessibility of the mines.
Diamond mining has declined during the 2000s as gold
finds have attracted companies more. A Canadian company
plans to mine manganese and in 2012 a large deposit of
uranium was found.
The mining industry accounts for around one fifth of
the country's GDP, but incomes often vary greatly from
year to year, due to fluctuations in world market
Mining and especially gold mining cause environmental
problems. Mercury is often used to distinguish gold in
washing, and mercury is now measured in the blood of
indigenous people in gold-rich areas. In the gold mine
in Omai, an environmental disaster occurred in 1995,
when more than two million cubic meters of cyanide
flowed into the Essequibo River. Guyana has long been
criticized for not monitoring how the mining industry
affects the environment
Hundreds of tree species grow in the Guyanese
rainforests, many of which are commercially valuable. It
was not until the 1990s that timber began to be cut on a
larger scale, in collaboration with companies from
China, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, the authorities
said they were keen to control the felling and establish
local industries that can export timber in refined
condition. Increased awareness of the value of the
inland wilderness has also been expressed in ecotourism
since the 1990s. The Guyanese rainforest is very rich
and, among other things, there are up to 50 species of
reptiles and amphibian animals that have never been
found anywhere else.
Since the turn of the millennium, the state has paid
more attention to the environmental threats. In 2006,
then-President Bharrat Jagdeo launched a proposal that
almost all of Guyana's rainforest area should be placed
under international surveillance in exchange for
economic development assistance. An agreement with
Norway in 2009 marked a step in this direction (see
Foreign Policy and Defense).
Despite the many rivers, which could be utilized for
a huge expansion of hydropower, only a small part of the
electrical energy comes from hydropower. The high
waterfalls are usually far from roads and inhabited
areas. A major project in collaboration with other
Chinese stakeholders was in the starting pits when the
World Bank withdrew funding in 2011, after which
everything was shrunk. Guyana therefore imports oil to
extract electricity. This makes electricity production
expensive, which is exacerbated by old-fashioned
equipment and large wastage due to both an inadequate
distribution system and theft.
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
671 kilos of oil equivalent (2007)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
2,010,000 tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
2.6 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
25.3 percent (2015)