Ministries collaborate to spread word on effects of mercury

─ Indigenous communities a main target

─ miners to be educated

DPI, Guyana, Friday, February 8, 2019

The Ministers of Natural Resources and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs are working together to ensure education on mercury use reaches everyone, especially indigenous communities.

On Friday morning, a meeting of the National Working Group on the Minamata Convention on Mercury was held to bring stakeholders up to date on what has been taking place with regards to the national action plan for the Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector and government’s efforts on the elimination of the use of mercury.

During the meeting, Minister Trotman reiterated his concerns on mercury use stating that further educating was needed.

“Obviously, we have to go back to the drawing board so far as education is concerned, it is not for a lack of trying, there are billboards, people are seeing them but at the same time not seeing them,” noted Minister Trotman.

He said the use of mercury still exists in many villages, and more often than not, those very villagers are facilitating the practice.

“In the very villages mentioned, it is the villagers themselves who are using the mercury, sometimes you run away with the idea that it is some outside miner that does it and the villages look on helpless, but invariably I’m finding that they are very much involved.”

The Natural Resources Minister said he understands the challenges involved in moving away from the practice and noted that the government is working on an alternative.

“At the level of government, I am recommitting to working closely with the GGMA,” Minister Trotman said.

Minister Sydney Allicock agreed that further education was necessary to eradicate the use of mercury and protect lives and the environment.

“This calls for a lot of education if we are going to save the environment, not only the minor but also the people living there… a lot of time they do not know, so education is necessary,” the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister noted. 

According to Minister Allicock, much has been done so far, but has not yet reached all the Guyanese people.

“I don’t look at this as a project, but a programme… We need within the communities, environmental personnel to help promote the government’s efforts in protecting the environment,” he stated.

Elemental and methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal.

Felecia Valenzuela.

Image: Ackeem Thomas.

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