More environmental education needed in mining sector – Allicock

The Minamata convention got underway on Friday at the Natural Resources Ministry with Indigenous People’s Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock expressing the need for more education to be provided to mining stakeholders on land reclamation and protecting the environment.
At the time Allicock made this call, he was seated next to fellow Cabinet member and Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman. Allicock noted the damage mining does to the environment and made it clear that education must be provided to all and sundry.

Indigenous People’s Minister Sydney Allicock

“We go and we say we’re going into the bush and we treat it as such, forgetting that it is a homeland to a people. So we go, dig the place and leave it without doing the necessary clean up.”
“This calls for a lot of education, if we’re going to save the environment, which means not only for the miners but those persons who are living there, so they have a better understanding of the activity that is happening… because if you don’t know you don’t know.”
According to Allicock, education will be critical for eradicating mercury contamination. He said while there is a mining policy, the information has to get out to those who need it the most.
Another suggestion made by Allicock was to allocate areas to miners known for sticking to best practise. He also suggested that Government work closely with communities who have been affected by mercury.

The convention was organised in keeping with the Minamata Convention on Mercury… a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.
It was agreed to at the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury in Geneva, Switzerland on January 19, 2013, and was later adopted on October 10, 2013.
The Convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.
Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the Convention.
Major highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phasing out of existing ones, the phasing out and phasing down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The effects of mercury on the environment (photo credit; global environment facility)

The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury, and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.
There have previously been reports on increased levels of mercury in several waterways in interior regions. Additionally, the Guyana Water Inc was forced to temporarily close its Port Kaituma well after it discovered high mercury content in the Kaituma River.
Last year, the discovery of high levels of mercury in the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) Laboratory in Georgetown had led to Trinidad-based Kaizen Environmental Services being contracted to conduct an independent investigation of the effect of the emission.
According to the report, the study was conducted on March 28 at 10 locations primarily located within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commissions’ compound and the surrounding areas.
“The Mercury (Hg) levels monitored at all 10 locations were within the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US OSHA) eight-hour Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL),” the report stated.
Out of over 130 staffers tested, it was discovered that more than 60 reported high levels of mercury in their system. Research shows that mercury can enter the body through inhalation of mercury vapour, ingestion, injection or even absorption through the skin.
In the case of mining personnel, a reading showing levels of 0-6 micro grams per litre is considered safe while 7-10 is high and above 11 dangerous. Once in the human system, mercury poisoning has horrendous effects on neurological, reproductive, gastrointestinal and renal organs.