Mines Commission wagers with new technology to phase out mercury use

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Beginning in 2022, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) is slated to test new technology as part of its commitment to finding feasible solutions to improve gold recovery and ultimately phase out the use of mercury in the sector.

GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison on Friday explained that the “Riven Mineral Recovery System” will be pilot tested for a period of 12 months and could possibly see a higher yield in mineral recovery with a significant reduction in the use of the toxic chemical in the process.

The use of mercury in the mining sector has been common among artisanal small and medium-scale miners for decades. However, exposure to mercury over a prolonged period has detrimental effects on the human body and the environment.

Mercury vapor, according to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), negatively impacts the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, and the lungs and kidneys; it can be fatal. Those health effects can be felt from inhaling, ingesting, or even just physical contact with mercury.

GGMC Commissioner Newell Dennison

And with Guyana signing and ratifying the Minimata Convention on Mercury, the GGMC Commissioner noted that efforts have to be put into place to reaffirm its commitment. This is where the Riven Mineral Recovery System also called the “Maroker” comes in.

Dennison explained that for years, the GGMC has continued to test varying technologies to aid the transition to mercury-free gold mining, especially for small and medium-scale miners.

One major deterrent to those miners, he noted, was the high cost to procure and apply the technology. But with the cost for the new technology being shared by the GGMC, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) along with the government, the Commissioner stated that miners are more receptive to the transition to mercury-free technologies.

“We do not expect that today, we are going to be working with mercury, and then we wake up tomorrow and it will be no more.

“…we are not going to pretend that that is going to be the silver bullet but we recognize that it is important that we must move from point A to point B and make incremental steps to have a serious decrease in the use of mercury and the adoption of non-mercury methodologies in general,” Dennison stated.

The Maroker is essentially a continuous mineral recovery system using minimal water, no chemicals with a reduced chemical footprint.  It was explained that the technology has a high recovery of fine and flat gold particles that are usually harder to extract using mercury.

An additional benefit, Dennison added, is that the Maroker helps to produce the sought after “pure gold” which carries a higher price on the market and this translates to increased profits to miners.

Once the pilot test phase is over, Dennison stated that the Maroker will be deployed and available for use in the mining sector.

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