GGMC workers not returning to Brickdam offices until satisfied with mercury emission clean up

-union rep

Gregory Gaspar

Despite the discontinuation of the burning of amalgamated gold at the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) laboratory on Brickdam, Georgetown over health concerns, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) workers have not resumed work at their adjoining offices and their union says that they will remain off the job until a satisfactory cleanup is done.

The GGB was forced to close the operations of the Gold Board’s lab after mounting pressure from the GGMC workers. Due to the high levels of mercury found in the blood of a majority of workers, a decision was made by the management of the Commission for them to boycott work and continue doing so until the lab stopped the burning of amalgamated gold.

Despite the workers leaving work on Friday, the Gold Board continued its operations unhindered, which resulted in the workers staying away from work on Monday too. However, the ministry caved in and subsequently closed the lab’s operations the following day and made a commitment to relocating it.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, President of the Guyana Civil Servants and General Workers Union (GCS&GWU) Gregory Gaspar confirmed that the workers did not return to work yesterday.

He noted that they have not made any significant process with the cleanup and are currently trying to find out and source the correct materials and detergents that have to be used for the process.

“It’s not just ordinary soap and water. The Commission is trying to get the competent persons to make recommendations in terms of how we will go about it,” he said, while adding that he is unsure how long the process and cleanup activities will take but the workers will not return to work until they are satisfied.

“That [closing of the GGB’s lab] should’ve been done a long time ago because I think the whole thing would’ve initiated a whole month or so ago and the decision they took to finally close the lab in terms of no burning they should’ve done that a long time ago,” he added.

GGB Chairman GHK Lall also related to this newspaper that the board is still looking for a new spot to relocate the GGB’s lab, which he noted “is engaging very senior people.”

“We have made alternative arrangements for the burning of gold away from the [laboratory] and we are hoping that this will be a short term arrangement,” he said, while emphasising that finding a new location is paramount.

Questioned about how the closing down of the lab has affected the GGB’s operations, Lall said that so far they have transitioned smoothly.

“Yesterday was our first day and everything went smoothly and there is some movement but everybody was prepared for this and we have coached the staff. We have met with the customers as they come in and we have shared with the GGDMA [Guyana Gold Miners and Diamond Miners Association] where things are and everybody understood. Our business was as usual yesterday except for somewhere different,” he said, while stating that they do not want to publicly reveal where they are temporarily burning gold for security reasons.

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