No official report GGMC officers death mercury related -Ministry of Natural Resources

DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) said there is no formal report indicating the recent deaths of Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) workers are mercury related even as it works to satisfactorily resolve workers issues.

The Ministry’s release came in response to a Kaieteur News article published today. The article credits the deaths of four GGMC workers to exposure to mercury over a six-month period.

The MNR release rubbished the claim and noted “there is simply no existing empirical data which establish that mercury is responsible for the deaths of miners and GGMC workers in recent times”.  

Today’s Guyana Chronicle stated “a senior functionary” of the GGMC confirmed the deaths but “urged that the public await official reports before arriving at conclusions”.

Mercury use in the mining industry is decades old. The mineral is used to amalgamate gold.

In April, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) ceased burning raw gold in GGMC’s Brickdam Complex due to health and safety concerns. It outsourced the burning of raw gold at the facilities to one of its licenced dealers.

There has since been continuous testing and treatment for the presence of mercury, cleaning of the compound and equipment and fast-tracking arrangements for relocation of the GGB’s facilities and staff.

The government has committed to eradicating the use of mercury in mining. It signed and ratified the Minamata Convention for the eradication of the use of mercury in mining in October 2013.

Meanwhile, the Ministry added it has been “working assiduously” with several Ministries and Agencies including, the EPA and Ministry of Social Protection, “to ensure that the current issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the workers”.

The MNR release noted it “will again engage the workers about any grievances that may exist”.  The release made it clear that the exposure to mercury emissions was “through no fault” of the GGMC or GGB.

The Ministry of Natural Resources said it remains “unequivocal in its position that the safety, health and general wellbeing of our workers is our top priority”.

By Tiffny Rhodius