130 staff tested for mercury immediately it was disclosed some were affected

Dear Editor,

The Ministry of Natural Resources is unequivocal in our position that the safety, health and general wellbeing of our workers is our top priority. Given the nature of our operations, employees may be exposed to various risks and every effort is made to minimize and guard against these.

The recent discovery that some employees of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are suffering the effects of exposure to mercury emission, is not being taken lightly. The affected staff are being monitored and receiving treatment.

Suggestions of political indifference on the part of this administration as contained in the Stabroek editorial of April 17, ‘Mercury emissions at the Guyana Gold Board’, are totally misplaced and disappointing.

This administration, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Guyana Gold Board and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, acted immediately to determine the health status of the staff of GGMC and GGB and continues to look at ways to ensure a safe environment.

Immediately following the disclosure that some staff were affected, 130 staff of the GGMC and the Guyana Gold Board were tested.

Further testing will be done by an overseas company.

Kaizen Environmental Services (Guyana) Ltd. was commissioned to conduct air quality monitoring of the Board’s Laboratory, compound and environment.

Kaizen conducted tests at 10 locations and found that mercury levels at all ten locations were within the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s eight-hour permissible exposure limit.

Activation Laboratory, a local company was also consulted to assist with monitoring.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been invited in to monitor the situation and is statutorily authorised to take any action deemed warranted.

These are not the actions of an indifferent administration but, rather, the actions of a government committed to the safety and wellbeing of its people.

It must be noted that the Guyana Gold Board does not use mercury in its operations. However, gold brought to Board for sale and processing may contain mercury which is emitted during smelting. We invite the media to work with government and other stakeholders, to support our efforts and to champion the cause of the eradication of mercury as per our Minimata Convention state obligations.

Yours faithfully,

Devin Sears

Ministerial Technical Assistant

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