Urica Primus: Mining formed the backbone of her family
Unlike some other women who were drawn into mining, Urica Primus grew up in a family where mining formed the backbone of the family, where 80 per cent of her aunts and uncle were miners. Additionally, growing up, Urica was like a shadow to her uncle John Charles. Now that means everywhere he journeyed to, she was there, whether that entailed purchasing engine parts, loading trucks, taking engine parts to be repaired, she was there.
By age 10, Urica was taking care of small aspects of the family business. She related that “they would send you to do things on your own, like if they were loading trucks and they had to go and collect something, they would give you the money and say, look go and collect it. Or if workers come out and they had a lot of workers paying at once, then you would start like writing the receipts and letting them sign, so you got involved, really hands-on at an early age and as you can tell, from not only our work, there is very little that would be going around me that I wouldn’t get involved in, especially if it’s something that you know affects not only your family but day to day life”.
She added that during the August holidays as children, they would go and spend time in the interior and return. The executive of the organisation pointed out that the atmosphere during the 1990s, with respect to mining, compared to the atmosphere at present, is far different.
“There was more a spirit of family and comradery and people working together to me. I could be wrong. It was a lot safer then within the mining communities.”
Even when Primus moved from Bartica to Georgetown to attend secondary school, she still remained actively involved with the procurement of items, hiring of staff and sending staff into the interior in addition to other aspects of the business.
At just about 19, Primus got her own mining operation. That basically meant moving from managing both the finances and human resources to going into the business fully.
Subsequently, Urica became the second Vice-President of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation in 2012. She then moved up the ranks, becoming the first Vice- President. Then in 2015, she was elected the President of the organisation.
The Guyana Women Miners Organisation looks not only at the industry but the representation of women on both sides of the spectrum, including women within the extractive sector, women who live within mining communities, women who are impacted by mining and so on. The President of the organisation said there has never been an organisation offering representation to women in mining, providing services or providing assistance that would lead to the development of skills in the industry.
Looking at the work of the organisation, the President noted that there are a number of areas that the body has been addressing which are aligned with issues that she has been aware of for years. Issues she would like to play an active role in finding solutions for.
Over the years, the President of the organisation, who is currently pursuing a Degree in Psychology, has quite comfortably been able to garner the respect of members within the organisation. A major factor in support from other members, according to her, is that people often respect one’s actions as compared to tones.
She added that treating people with respect as well as acknowledging the input from every member of the organisation, whether it is time, assisting victims, going into the field or simply dropping off letters, people are more open to working with you when offered respect.
Working together as a collective would have seen the organisation growing in membership and other fronts. At 24, Primus was not only heading the organisation but also making representations on the Board of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). The President of the organisation doesn’t see age as a factor in getting things done rather, it’s the conduct that counts.
She noted that “coming from a mining background, the ups and downs in mining really humbles you and it teaches you not to take anything for granted, when it comes to how you use your time, how you allot your finances, how you plan for your future because there is nothing that is certain or you can say well within the next five months this is what I am going to do. It’s different from when you are working a 9 to 5 job, when you have a fixed salary. One of the things that most miners can tell you during the down periods, you really have a sense of how genuine some people are and how genuine people aren’t”.
She was quick to highlight too that some jokes should not be taken for granted because people often say things that they want to say while joking around. That aside, the President is a fervent believer that other members of the organisation should get equal opportunity in terms of training, whether locally or internationally.
The organisation also lends in-depth personal support to members who would have had a miscarriage to hospitalisation to business expansion and beyond.
“We have members who have small businesses, we have tried to connect them with other businesses that they can now widen their markets, did their introduction letters for them, create social media accounts for them and teach them how to brand themselves. So there is so much you can do if you stop living in a ball or in [a] box or limiting yourself that this is your mandate and you have to stick to this. Life doesn’t work like that. At the end of the day, there is so much that persons need help with and there is so much that we need to develop as a country in general that you can’t forsake anyone’s needs or forsake anyone’s issues and you also have to as much as possible remember that the whole world is not about you” the President of the organisation added.
The organisation is currently conducting Project Management Training for roughly 10 women in the organisation and this is being facilitated through Cerulean Inc. This is conducted every Saturday and extends to members outside of the capital city through the use of technology.
The Natural Resources Ministry also sponsored a trade show preparation training held on February 16, 2019, for members and non-member miners who were preparing to attend Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention (PDAC) to market their mining properties
Additionally, the selfless President of the organisation feels women need to be respected more in society and this can only start with how they are treated.