The lure of gold has given rise to a devil-may-care attitude in some sections of the mining industry and in an overwhelming number of instances, is responsible for the loss of life, Administrative Coordinator of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) Colin Sparman told Stabroek Business on Monday.
Alluding to last week’s accident in Region Seven in which four Brazilian miners lost their lives, Sparman said while there has not yet been an official report on the accident from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, “it appears that there is good reason to believe that the disaster may have resulted from indifference to standard safety procedures.”
While declining to make what he described as “premature pronouncements” on the incident, Sparman said the frequency of mishaps in the gold industry “only serve to remind us of the risks associated with a daredevil attitude that sometimes amounts to sheer recklessness.”
Sparman told Stabroek Business that there are clear and clearly understood rules regarding the depth of pits, the height of walls and the distances from pits where miners should be located. “It might perhaps be inappropriate to equate what happens in the mining sector [with road accidents], but the truth is that in many cases mining accidents are the result of the same thing; chasing an extra dollar,” he stated.
And according to Sparman, while the frequent and flagrant transgression of safety rules can be attributed in some measure to “deficiencies in the official policing system” much of the blame must be placed on the shoulders of the miners themselves. “The reality is that we will never have a GGMC safety official overlooking every mining operation,” he noted. “What that means is that as far as safety is concerned there has to be a great deal of self-regulation in the sector. That is what, in many instances, is missing.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Region Seven accident, Sparman announced that the GGDMA has recruited two “technically equipped persons” who will be focusing on heightening awareness of safety regulations and the importance of adherence to those regulations at mining sites. He said the work being done by the GGDMA will include publication of safety-related information in sections on the media. “We’re dealing with a pretty difficult situation, but we must continue to do what we can to avert these kinds of disasters,” Sparman said.
The association will also be targeting the owners of mining operations, who he said can do more to avert disasters in the sector. “We have to be sure that the bosses of some of these operations are not behind these risk-taking escapades the result in loss of life,” Sparman said.
Asked whether there are formal arrangements governing compensation in the event of loss of life or injury, Sparman said these vary from case to case. “Sometimes there are no formal arrangements. Sometimes there are written contracts. Unfortunately, there are a number of cases in which the settlement arrangements and the quantities of the compensation become the subject of controversy,” Sparman added.