Govt working assiduously to eradicate mercury use in Guyana

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

“Government’s position is that no expense will be spared, no effort will be spared, to ensure the wellbeing of every single worker and everyone who comes into contact with mercury.”

This was stated by Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman at a press conference in June of this year. The minister assured that the government is committed “to seeing the eradication of mercury and its use in Guyana.”

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphel Trotman

As part of their commitment, the government signed the United Nations Environment Program’s Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013.

Earlier this year, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) took a decision to cease the burning of raw gold in GGMC’s compound. This was due to safety and health concerns.

In June of this year, there were reports surrounding the deaths of four Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) employees being linked to mercury poisoning. However, the Ministry of Natural Resources has since rubbished those claims citing that “there is simply no existing empirical data which establish that mercury is responsible for the deaths of miners and GGMC workers in recent times.”

The Ministry of Public Health collaborated with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to address the mercury-related issues emanating from GGMC and GGB last June. Two teams conducted assessments comprising two industrial hygienists, two physicians and a mining engineer. Tests were conducted to determine if any traces of mercury remain at the Brickdam complex.

The GGMC immediately stopped the burning of gold at its complex and outsourced the operations to one of its dealers in the interim while it located new and improved facilities. GGMC staff exposed to the emissions were tested and are being constantly monitored.

The government has been working diligently with the help of Ministries and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Social Protection to develop alternatives to Mercury use in mining.

Minister Trotman said the government will soon unveil a programme, in collaboration with Conservation International, entitled Eldorado Gold which will look at these alternatives.

Anara Khan

Image: Department of Public Information

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