US$500,000 project launched to reduce use of mercury

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Guyana’s fight to eliminate mercury continues with the launch of the development of a National Action Plan (NAP) for the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector.

The National Action Plan was officially launched Tuesday at the Herdmanston Lodge, Peter Rose Street Georgetown.

The project is being funded by the US-based foundation – Global Environment Facility to the tune of US$500,000.

It will run for a period of two years and aims to reduce and where feasible, eliminate of the use of mercury and also look to adopt new practices for small scale miners, after an assessment found that this sector uses the most mercury.

Small scale miners are significant to Guyana’s economy and accounted for 6.1% of Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year and generated 33% of foreign exchange earned for gold production.

The sector also provides the main source of employment in hinterland communities to over 18,000 persons.

L-R: Director for BCRC Caribbean Jewel Batchmansingh, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman and UN Environment, Associate Programme Management Officer, Malgorzata Stylo.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman said in 2013 Guyana signed on to the Minamata Convention on Mercury that focuses on the protection of the environment and human health.

As such, the National Action Plan project is part of the obligation of the Minamata Convention. He said the reduction of mercury use is high on the government’s agenda.

“Our signing on the Minamata Convention on Mercury and subsequent ratification in September 2014, were the formative action we took in recognition of our commitment to sustainable development through fostering safer communities and healthier people.

The National Action Plan was officially launched Tuesday at the Herdmanston Lodge, Peter Rose Street Georgetown

“The mining industry here in Guyana has been in existence for centuries and has built the foundation of Guyana’s development, the point being it is not going to be replaced and we have no intentions of replacing mining,” the Minister said.

The Minamata Convention also aligns with the Ministry’s responsible mining initiative and the country’s green state development strategy. Minister Trotman said the Government will transition from mercury into a ‘better way of mining’.

He said they will provide the sector with the necessary tools for this transition and Government will continue to engage the sector in all aspects of the implementation of the project

The project is being done in collaboration with Basel Convention Regional Centre (BCRC) for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean Region which will provide technical support.

The implementation of the project will be done by the United Nations Environment Programme with support from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The acting Director for BCRC Caribbean Jewel Batchmansingh said they are looking to create a sustainable mining industry.

“Generally it is going to look at strategies to eliminate the worst practices and promote mercury alternatives, it will look at legislation, at baseline estimates mercury use, at trade, of course, look at affected communities, the social aspect and the general aspect and look at inherent  market base mechanisms and tools for mercury-free ASGM,” Batchmansingh said.

A number of key experts from the Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Control Board, Guyana Water Incorporated, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, World Wildlife Fund, the Ministry of Public Health, Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Organisation, the Guyana Women Miner’s Organisation and the National Mining Syndicate will be working on the project with other international experts.

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