Against the background of mounting concern over the increase in the number of site accidents and fatalities in the country’s mining sector, the Guyana Mining School and Training Centre Inc (GMSTC) has announced that its regime of training, beginning in January next year, will embrace occupational safety and health directly related to “predicting and monitoring the possible potential of a mining pit collapsing.”
This disclosure by the GMSTC comes in the wake of an increase in the frequency of pit cave-ins and loss of life at mining sites. These occurrences are widely believed to be the result, predominantly, of less than strict adherence to safe practices.
In May this year, the country suffered its worst ever tragedy in the gold-mining sector when ten persons lost their lives after a pit caved in the Potaro-Siparuni area. Blame for accidents such as this has been placed at the feet of various inexperienced mining site managers who are accused of focusing on rewards whilst ignoring the risks, and on the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) for alleged failure to provide proper safety and health oversight in the sector.
The GMSTC says that part of the objective of its training is to develop an “advisory on safe mining distances for mine operators.” The mining school says that participants in this course will utilize their competencies in GPS, Map Reading, Navigation and Sampling Techniques to take disturbed and undisturbed samples of the overburden, within which their mining operations are embedded. These soil samples will be analysed to determine to which geological unit they belong, labelled and preserved. Their geographical position will then be taken using the GPS. The GMSTC says that a key element of the training programme is to help miners and mining operation managers “understand the concept of soil failure and the factors that result in mining pit failures.”
Meanwhile, the Geo-Technical Laboratory at the University of Guyana is expected to play a role in testing the samples and designing safe mining distances for pit walls of various heights within various lithological soil types. A map showing the soil types and associated advisories for the major lithological units will be developed and simplified for distribution to participants and miners in the project areas.
The GMSTC says that another key objective of its 2016 training programme is the development of a ‘Mineral Property Evaluation Programme for Mining Properties,’ designed to help respond to the challenge of identifying profitable work grounds for mining faced by small and medium-scale mining operations. The programme, the school says, will seek to answer “basic questions” like the tonnages of overburden, gravel and ore that will have to be mined, the volume of gold that can be anticipated from a particular mine area and the likely operational costs associated with extracting that gold.
The GMSTC says that participants in its training courses will be expected to function as field assistants and general managers of small and medium-scale mining operations. It says it will also be creating “an alumni of the GMSTC Prospectors Training Programme” to enable feedback and to monitor the progress of the implementation of knowledge gained to enhance efficiency and compliance with regulations in the sector.