The recent deaths of four workers attached to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) have not been proven to be mercury related, the Ministry of Natural Resources said.
Latchman Chiti, a surveyor who was in his late 40s and Clement Proffit, a lab technician, who was in his early 60s recently passed away while Dwayne De Jonge, a ranger, and Leroy Greene, a carpenter died earlier in the year.
Just a few months ago, there was a serious mercury contamination at the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) which shares a compound with the GGMC.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has raised concerns about the “untimely” deaths of the four workers and suggested that it was mercury related.
But the Ministry in a statement said “no official or formal report of this matter has been received about these deaths being mercury related.”
However, the Ministry did not rule out the possibility of the deaths being mercury related as it is awaiting a report which will reveal the reason for the workers’ demise.
“There is simply no existing empirical data which establish that mercury is responsible for the deaths of miners and GGMC workers in recent times. However, efforts are already in train to scientifically establish whether there is such a link,” the Ministry said.
No effort and expense will be spared in the pursuit of “the truth”, the Ministry said. Following an unrest at the GGMC and GGB over the mercury threat, the Government took steps to halt the operations of the lab at the Brickdam Compound.
But tests conducted on the workers revealed that about 200 have above normal levels of mercury in their systems. Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman indicated, however, that further tests would be needed to determine if the mercury levels were as a result of the fumes from the Gold Board’s lab or if it was simply because they consumed too excessive amounts of fish – which has a high mercury content.