Miners should stop whining and embrace sustainable development
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) is reluctant to embrace any initiative that seeks to phase out or properly regulate the use of mercury, despite evidence that shows it is not the best and most cost-effective method used in the recovery and processing of gold.
It is acknowledged that gold mining provides a significant source of income for small and medium-scale miners and moreover, a major contributor to the country’s GDP. Nevertheless, our miners use substantial amounts of mercury in an unsafe manner and environmentally hazardous conditions. Mercury is generally handled by people with little or no awareness of its danger, and little or no training to minimise the risks associated with its use.
Inevitably, the application of mercury in the processing of gold leads to environmental degradation and ecosystem pollution which prevails decades after mining has ceased. Arguably, even a low dose of mercury poisoning causes neurological problems and has been proven to be dangerous for women of child-bearing age. For this reason, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiated the small-scale gold mining partnership in 2005.
The overall goal of this project is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.
Initially the project places stringent rule on the use of mercury, thereafter it forbids the use of mercury. More importantly, gold produced without the use of mercury may be certified “green gold” since its processing is in keeping with sustainable development. Our miners therefore must invest in new technologies such as gravity separation or concentration methods which have the potential to eliminate the use mercury or the use of borax which has a higher gold recovery rate than mercury.
Come on miners, stop whining, embrace sustainable development, promote a ‘Green Guyana.’