Closure of gold board lab a last resort

- Lall

While a battery of tests are to be done to determine the mercury emission levels from the Brickdam laboratory of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), Chairman GHK Lall says that closure would be a last resort.

A joint statement issued by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the GGB on Monday acknowledged that there was a problem with mercury emissions at its Brickdam complex, following a recent Kaieteur News report. However, they disputed the suggestions that matters are at a “crisis stage” and that many are “in danger zone.”

“Both the GGMC and the GGB believe that this matter is under control because of the many measures taken,” the statement said, while adding that the two agencies have collaborated in the past several weeks to improve mercury management activities at the Brickdam complex so that there are no emissions of mercury during daily operations.

Subsequently, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman told the Guyana Chronicle that he would be taking “urgent steps, including perhaps closing down the laboratory temporarily,” although he noted that he did not believe that the situation is life-threatening.

Speaking to Stabroek News on Wednesday, Lall, who noted that the board’s life expired at the end of February, told Stabroek News that the GGB has been working along with the GGMC in addressing the issue.

“We have people scheduled to come in from overseas tomorrow [yesterday] to do further testing to confirm that the levels are below where they should be, within the safety margin and well within,” Lall said, while indicating that the pollution engineer, Isidro Espinosa, who teaches at the University of Guyana, has given them written certification that the emissions are within the safety margin.

Additionally, the GGB is having workers go through routine tests and professionals from overseas were expected to be here yesterday to conduct further tests to confirm that the workers’ lives are not in danger.

“We also think that we need to reach out and bring another set of people from overseas to do another layer of sophisticated testing. So, in terms of it being closed, let me say that has to be a last resort, the last of last resorts, especially given where we are right now in terms of remedial actions,” Lall said, while emphasising that the closure of the lab is not on the table right now and would only be a last resort action.

While he could not say how many of the workers have been affected, Lall noted that all of the workers of GGMC who work with the GGB in the lab undergo scheduled monthly testing.

He added that they have all the required equipment, which is tested as part of a union agreement, which he said the Board insists on.

When asked what might have caused the furore, Lall said, “There are many sources that we feel that could be at the bottom of this. There could be legitimate concerns. On the other hand, we feel that there are other people who have their own agenda and who have a problem with the way things are going right now. And I don’t mean in terms of mercury emissions, they have a problem with the positive work coming out of the Board.”

Lall, who emphasised that the workers’ safety is paramount, said that by the end of the week they are going to confirm the mercury emission levels.

The joint GGMC/GGB statement also stated that other measures were taken, including a comprehensive inspection of the entire emissions controls system; timely refurbishing of all areas and aspects of related systems; physical extension of emissions chimney; satisfactory testing of work and resulting emissions; arranging for written assurances (warranties) as to work performed; continuing with an aggressive maintenance schedule; recruiting external monitoring parties for safety certification purposes; and continuous monitoring to detect any suspicious levels.

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