Union wants ‘complete and verifiable’ solution to mercury contamination at Gold Board
There needs to be a “complete and verifiable” resolution to the issue regarding mercury fumes emission during the processing of gold at the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) said Friday morning.
The facilities of the Gold Board are located in the compound of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), whose workers the GPSU represent.
In mid-March, the GGMC and the Gold Board acknowledged that there was a problem with mercury emissions.
All Gold Board employees who were exposed to mercury along with 130 GGMC staff were tested. It was disclosed that 60 persons from the GGMC were found with “above normal” levels of mercury but Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman said this could be because of consuming too much fish.
The Union said that the issue adds to a sustained and unacceptable breach of health and safety protocols and the Ministry of Natural Resources bears accountability.
“…the Ministry of Natural Resources, given what it knows about the use of mercury and its health and environmental effects in the mining sector has no good excuse for its behaviour,” the GPSU stated.
Rather than throw assurances at the workers through public statements, the Union said the Ministry must immediately re-engage with the workers and their Union to ensure “robust protocols pertaining to the safety and health of GGMC workers are firmly in place and, moreover, that they are operational on a full – time basis.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources had stated that based on the investigation conducted during March 2017, the Mercury (Hg) levels monitored at all ten (10) locations with the compound of the GGMC were within the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s eight-hour Permissible Exposure Limit.
The Ministry said that the Guyana Gold Board does not use mercury in its operations but that gold brought to the Gold Board for sale and processing may contain mercury which is emitted during smeltering.