Bartica Mayor promises improved safety at sand pit

-blames communication breakdown with GGMC for failure to correct breaches

Gifford Marshall

Mayor of Bartica Gifford Marshall has promised better enforcement of safety practices and other major improvements at a sand pit run by the municipality after an impromptu visit by Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes over the weekend unearthed serious infractions.

“First of all, I want to congratulate Minister Simona Broomes and also the GGMC [Guyana Geology and Mines Commission] on their work to improve the working conditions of not only mining and those who are in the mining field, but also the facility we manage at,” Marshall told Stabroek News yesterday.

Marshall emphasised that safety is also the priority of the Bartica Town Council and highlighted that it had been adhering to previous advisories from the GGMC, even though a Department of Public Information (DPI) report stated otherwise.

Men loading sand into a truck while in the face of the sand wall (DPI photo)

He noted that the Town Council only facilitates the use of the sand pit by private truckers and its workers are not involved with the removal of the sand.

Marshall explained that they first received an inspection report from the Commission on October 16, 2017, which stated that they had to make several corrective measures including the “benching of the mine face.”

“…That means that there was a wall higher than expected at approximately 50 to 60 feet. The report also pointed out that there was inadequate de-bushing practices and also the pit floor needed to be cleared off of debris because persons would go there and dispose of their waste,” Marshall said.

However, contrary to reports, Marshall noted that swift action was taken and “some works” were done in keeping with the recommendations by the Commission, but the GGMC was still not satisfied.

Several months after, in January, a cease order was sent to the municipality. It stated that they needed to satisfy all the recommendations before any work could resume.

On February 5th, another “picture report,” which visually highlighted all the issues that the council needed to address before the operation could be restarted, was received.

“In mid-February, we commenced work to correct the measures that were in place. Subsequently to that there were some communication challenges between our administration and GGMC to have engineers travel to Bartica to examine the pit and get the necessary approval. According to our records, communication was done in April where a meeting was organised between the GGMC and us but that fell through and not because we did not want to meet with them but because of communication issues,” Marshall explained, while noting that the planned meeting was to discuss the approval for continuation of work at the pit.

Marshall emphasised that significant works were done but they were still unable to get approval and despite a specific section being closed off by the GGMC, trucks continued to breach the rules by using the area.

The DPI report included a picture of two workers without safety gear standing at the base of a sand wall and loading sand onto a truck with spades. This, Marshall said, was as a result of the quarry workers not being vigilant enough and the truckers and their workers exploiting the situation.

“To put everything into perspective, we are in full support of GGMC in promoting safety and it is our first priority and we want to ensure we have a safe working conditions throughout the township and region by extension,” Marshall added.

He also pointed out that the Commission was contacted yesterday morning and they are currently trying to identify a new pit and to do corrective works on the current one. However, all work will stop at the current pit and Marshall noted that they will put additional measures in place to ensure that persons cannot access the closed pits.

“We had an admin meeting and we are going to put better enforcement in place and ensure that trucks do not exploit that situation and give the township a bad name,” he said.

The Minister and GGMC staff also visited the BK International Quarry, Baracara Quarries Incorporated, Toolsie Persaud Limited’s St Mary’s Quarry in the Essequibo River, Durban Quarry and the sand pit at Five Mile, Potaro Road, Bartica.

The DPI report said that the most glaring instances of non-compliance in safety practices were seen at the Durban Quarries, where the company failed to correct unsafe mining practices despite notices from the GGMC a month ago. As a result, the Minister informed acting GGMC Mines Manager Krishna Ramdass to issue a cease order to the company.

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