Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman on Tuesday directed the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) to stop burning gold at its Brickdam-based laboratory, after more than 60 workers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) recorded high levels of the potentially deadly chemical in their bloodstream.
Trotman’s office said he “has directed that the burning of raw gold at the Gold Board’s laboratory, Upper Brickdam, Georgetown will cease as of close of business today – 2018.4.24.”
Based on assurances that the “necessary arrangements have been put in place”, he said miners would soon be informed where they would have to go to sell quantities of the precious metal. “Miners will receive due notice of the alternative and authorised place or places at which they could sell their gold.”
The Board of Directors of the GGMC had last week decided that workers should vacate their Upper Brickdam premises, which are housed in the same compound with the GGB, to facilitate a clean-up of mercury residue. GGMC Board Chairman, Stanley Ming had also said they had decided to call on Minister Trotman to ensure the laboratory s removed from the compound.
The Occupational Safety and Health Department of the Ministry of Social Protection has since launched a probe into the workplace safety issue.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Guyana Gold Board said they thanked the management and workers of the GGMC and GGB “for their patience and maturity in addressing this matter, and commends them for their vigilant and strident action during this testing period.” “The Ministry and the Gold Board will continue to ensure that the health and welfare of every worker will be treated with the highest importance and urgency,” the Ministry said in a statement.
According to the Natural Resources Ministry, Guyana also continues to work towards the implementation of the Minimata Convention that will see the significant reduction and subsequent eradication of the use of mercury by miners in the recovery and amalgamation of gold.
Noting that the use of mercury negatively impact the lives and environments wherever it is in use – whether in the Georgetown, or in hinterland communities, and must eradicated, the Natural Resources Ministry called on the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), Guyana Women Miners Organisation ( GWMO) and the National Miners Syndicate (NMS) “to cooperate with the various government authorities to eliminate the scourge of mercury from our environment.”
Many GGMC workers have since been sent on leave and ordered by doctors to take medication and vitamins as part of a process to reduce the high levels of mercury in their bodies.