EPA urged to clamp down on “willy-nilly” gold burning
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being urged to clamp down on the haphazard burning of raw gold around the city by dealers.
The call was made by the Guyana Gold Board which is currently in cleanup mode after a mercury contamination at its Brickdam Office.
The Gold Board was forced to relocate its laboratory and at $1.2M a month, a new facility is being rented at Crown Street, Queenstown.
The building was formerly a campaign office for the APNU+AFC coalition.
A modern mechanism costing more than $18M was developed to burn the gold but the system is still being tested.
As such, the Gold Board is only accepting smelted gold, says General Manager Eondrene Thompson who spoke with media operatives during a tour of the facility on Friday.
“Smelted gold, the mercury has been burnt out of that. Why we re-burn it is to ensure that it is gold…so when the gold comes in, we have to burn it back to ensure that we have gold there,” Thompson explained.
Sellers of sponge gold – which are usually laced with mercury – she presumed, will go to other dealers and this is where the situation becomes worrying.
“Sponge gold, [the sellers] may go to the dealers and I’ve cautioned the EPA to take a look down Church Street or wherever, persons are burning gold willy-nilly,” she stated.
The GGB General Manager is unsure of when the facility will be able to accept sponge gold but she said the aim is to ensure that mechanism is 100% safe before doing so.
The mechanism at the new Gold Board lab has already been deemed internationally accepted by a team of experts who had visited to assess the mercury situation, Chairman of the Board Gabriel Lall said.
The new mechanism for burning gold was developed by a Canadian based company called ActLabs and its General Manager Kevin Gomez assured that the mercury emissions will be below admissible levels.
It is a three-tiered system, unlike the one at the original Gold Board lab, which only had one checkpoint for the riddance of certain dangerous particles.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman says a more long-term solution to the issue would be working with miners to reduce the use of mercury in their operations.
In fact, the Minister says he was recently forced to deny the importation of a huge quantity of mercury into Guyana from Mexico.
Trotman says he does not have much details about the shipment and he is currently trying to find out who the importer is and what was the intention of the mercury.