GPSU says there had been agreement to move gold processing from near GGMC workers

Patrick Yarde

The Ministry of Natural Resources has come under fire from the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) in the wake of the recent resurfacing of reports of health-related problems among employees of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) linked to the use of mercury in the processing of gold in the same compound housing the GGMC.

Amidst reports that several workers employed by the GGMC had taken ill and that their illnesses are likely linked to fumes emanating from mercury, the GPSU accused the Ministry of Natural Resources of going back on an understanding arrived at under the previous administration with regard to putting the health of the workers first by bringing an end to the practice of processing the gold in an area in proximity to where the GGMC workers are situated.

In a statement issued on Wednesday the GPSU said it was “shocked that some considerable period after the matter of the use of mercury in the processing of gold had been the subject of detailed discourse between the Management/Administration of the GGMC and the Union and after a clear understanding had been reached regarding the imperative of putting the health of the workers first by ceasing the practice and ensuring the protection of the workers”, that the situation continued.

The Stabroek News, in its Tuesday April 17 editorial had called for the creation of conditions for the processing of gold by the GGB that took account, a priori, of the safety and health of the workers though, on Tuesday, the Ministry had responded to the Stabroek News editorial by stating that “suggestions of political indifference on the part of the administration” were contained in the editorial. The editorial had stated, among other things that the problem which has now resurfaced had preceded the advent of the present administration to office and had said that the processing of gold under circumstances that impacted deleteriously on the health of the workers was unacceptable.

In its statement the GPSU said that it associating itself “with the sentiments expressed in the Stabroek News editorial of Tuesday April 17” pertaining to the current arrangements for the processing of gold by the GGB.

The issue of the conditions under which gold is being processed by the GGB, according to the GPSU media release, has been “the subject of detailed discourse between the Management/ Administration of the GGMC and the Union… “What we now know is that the Ministry’s undertaking that mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that the health of the GGMC workers is not compromised had been – to say the least – put to one side and has now surfaced again,” the GPSU’s statement added.

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