PAHO to lead investigation into mercury emission

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  • Govt says will spare no expense to ensure workers safety

DPI, GUYANA, Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Two teams from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) will be investigating mercury emission at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Brickdam complex.

The Ministry of Public Health has taken the lead on the issue. Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, at a joint press briefing today with Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, said the first team is expected in Guyana within days.

Ministers of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Natural Resources Raphael Trotman.

That team will assess the clean-up efforts that were completed last week at the GGMC’s Brickdam complex after the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) ceased gold burning in April due to health and safety concerns.

“They can be able to give a validation to the pronouncements issued by our local body. That team will then set the stage for the other investigative team that will come in and look at the protocol, standards of our PPE and so on,” Minister Lawrence explained.

The PAHO team will be working closely with the GGMC and GGB. Additionally, the two ministries will examine their databases to determine previous mercury levels and exposures with the aim of reviewing same to ensure it meets international standards, Minister Lawrence noted.

Minister Trotman said the government will spare no effort to ensure the safety of workers and those who come into contact with mercury across the mining industry. “Ultimately … we wish to restore confidence both in the workers and in the public that this issue is being addressed,” he said.

No evidence deaths are mercury-related

Minister Trotman reinforced “there is no evidence to say anyone has died”. He made the statement in relation to recent reports in local media outlets attributing the deaths of four GGMC workers to mercury exposure.

The Ministry has previously 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”.

The Public Health Board will conduct a review of pathology reports of those deaths to effectively address these concerns.

However, Minister Lawrence cautioned media practitioners not to alarm persons with the information they are releasing. “The Ministry of Public Health we are open so please call for any clarification that you may need so we can help you to put your information out there,” she said.

By: Tiffny Rhodius.

Image: Kennyann Bacchus.