Miners’ body calls for gov’t to fund feasibility tests on elimination of mercury

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) has urged that the government allocate $2 billion to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC)  for the acquisition of quality equipment and to conduct test work to determine the feasibility of eliminating the use of mercury in mining and processing in Guyana.

“The GGDMA looks forward for strong collaboration with the GGMC as we work towards achievement of the objective and purposes of the [Minamata] Convention and the recovery in gold mining using economic and technically feasible mercury free systems,” the GGDMA said in a statement issued last Thursday.

The statement was issued in wake of the concerns expressed by GGMC workers over the high mercury levels in their blood due to emissions from the now relocated Guyana Gold Board laboratory at Brickdam.

In its statement, the GGDMA noted its concern at the situation, for which it accused the Gold Board of negligence. “The GGDMA sees no ill in the use of mercury, however it is the misuse or mismanagement of mercury that creates such an ill,” it said, while urging government to ensure that proper safety measures are in place through standard operating procedures at its facilities.

The GGDMA statement also reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and reiterated a call for the government to step forward with strong technical assistance to small- and medium-scale miners to ensure sustainable development principles are applied to the gold and diamond mining sector.

It said there is a need for the government to identify improved mercury-free gold recovery technologies and techniques, which can lead to achievement of the objectives of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“The GGDMA as a responsible entity in the mining sector, fully endorses the objective and purposes of the Convention and fully supports the measures in Article 7 and in Annex “C” of the said Convention.  The GGDMA recognises, however, that the Convention specifically requires that “Each Party that has artisanal and small-scale gold mining and processing, subject to this article within its territory shall take steps to reduce, and where feasible eliminate, the use of mercury and mercury compounds in, and the emissions and releases to the environment of mercury from such mining and processing,”” it added.

As a result, the GGDMA said it is clear that the requirement to determine the economic and technical feasibility of eliminating mercury use in gold mining in Guyana depends heavily on strong support from government. It further reiterated that best practices have to be sought based on what is “efficient, appropriate, adoptable, and most cost effective” for the geographical and geological environments in which small- and medium-scale miners operate in Guyana.

Against this background, the GGDMA added that government is expected to put its best mining engineers and mineral processing engineers out in the field with the miners to find solutions. “The GGDMA is of the view that with clear direction, quality equipment, and adequate funding, the GGMC professionals can determine the feasibility of eliminating mercury from gold mining,” it said, while also noting that it looks forward to the finalisation of an acceptable National Action Plan in accordance with Annex “C” of the Convention and the published Mining Policy of Guyana.

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