No National Action Plan for mercury leaves miners body perplexed

Going through their paces (DPI photo)

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) says it is perplexed that government has neither published a credible National Action Plan for mercury use in small scale gold mining nor provided the requisite technical assistance or financial help to the small-scale gold mining sector, as encouraged by the Minamata Convention.

A press release on Monday from the GGDMA said it is quite sure that the prolonged accidental mercury releases from the Guyana Gold Board operations within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) compound in Brickdam has convinced the government that the mercury challenge requires more than compliance enforcers.

The GGDMA recognizes that government in its wisdom sought overseas technical assistance and provided the necessary finance to help solve the problem caused by the use of poor, and /or, malfunctioning equipment and systems by the affected state agencies.

The GGDMA, in its release, stated that it is aware of the challenges to finding solutions to the mercury problem which faces the local gold mining sector. The entity is also aware of the studies which show that villagers in a remote part of the Southern Rupununi had elevated levels of mercury in their bodies, even though there is absolutely no mining in or close to their village.

The GGDMA also noted a report, at a recent mining conference in Guyana, which provided information on the mercury problem in Queensland, Australia, which was caused by the application of fungicides which contained mercury or mercury compounds as ingredients, to the sugar cane plantations there.

The mining association body is committed to working with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the GGMC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Unit, Department of Labour, in the Ministry of Social Protection, as well as with Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, and others to find feasible solutions to the challenge presented by the necessary use of mercury in small scale gold mining in Guyana.

In addition, according to the GGDMA statement, the organisation intends to seek partnerships with the large-scale foreign mining and petroleum companies with the goals of finding feasible solutions to the mercury challenge, and support for health and safety and environmental management in small scale mining in general.

The GGDMA is calling on local gold miners to use mercury responsibly; by utilising gloves, respirators, retorts, and by refraining from putting mercury in the mining pit. The GGDMA also encouraged miners to seek advice from the GGMC technical staff on the safe use of mercury.

It continues to be committed to the Minamata Convention of which Guyana is a signatory and is looking forward to government providing technical and financial assistance to miners as suggested under this Convention.  

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