…says GGB’s negligence caused high levels of mercury in labIn light of the recent discovery of high levels of mercury in the laboratory of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB), the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) is suggesting that Government allocate $2 billion to the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to conduct a feasibility study on the phasing out of the mercury in mining.The association said the money should be used for acquisition of quality equipment and conducting of test work. It added that Government is expected to put its best mining and mineral processing engineers in the field with miners to find solutions. “The GGDMA is of the view that with clear direction, quality equipment, and adequate funding, the GGMC professionals can determine the feasibility of eliminating mercury from gold mining,” the GGDMA said in a statement.The GGDMA said it is concerned with the high levels of mercury content found in the blood of both GGMC and GGB workers, and has blamed this development on the GGB’s negligence, since proper checks and procedures should have been in place to monitor fugitive mercury emissions.“The GGDMA is disturbed by the description of mercury as a “scourge” because of its use in the gold recovery process. Mercury is a necessary tool in the small and medium scale miners’ toolbox; however, it must be used and handled in a responsible manner,” the statement said.The GGDMA note that the Gold Board’s contamination is more of an issue of carelessness, since the industry’s best practices and technologies for the control and capture of mercury emissions from the Gold Board’s facilities were not installed, and the monitoring and maintaining protocols of the scrubbers installed in its systems were neglected or non-existent.“The GGDMA calls upon the Government to ensure that proper safety measures are in place through standard operating procedures [SOPs] at its facilities, to ensure a safe environment for all Guyanese as they conduct business daily,” it added.The GGDMA also reaffirmed its commitment to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and reiterated its call for the Government to step forward with strong technical assistance to small and medium scale miners to ensure sustainable development principles are applied to the gold and diamond mining sector.Additionally, the Association said there is a strong need for the Government to identify improved mercury-free gold recovery technologies and techniques which can lead to achievement of the objectives of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.The objective of the Minamata Convention is to protect humans and the environment around the world from mercury emissions caused by human activities. The agreement regulates the use of this heavy metal in manufacturing processes and products, the reduction of emissions, and the management of mercury-containing wastes.Since high mercury content has been discovered in the GGB’s Laboratory, over 130 staffers have been tested. It has been discovered that more than 60 have reported high levels of mercury in their system. The GGB has contracted the services of Trinidad-based Kaizen Environmental Services to conduct an independent investigation of the effect of the emission, and that company has said the mercury levels are back to normal. According to the report, the study was conducted on March 28 at ten locations primarily within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commissions’ compound and surrounding areas.Additionally, the laboratory have since been closed down.