Guyana Government concerned over use of mercury

Monday, February 18, 2019

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — the Guyana Government says it remains concerned at the high use of mercury and has promised to work on providing an alternative, especially to indigenous communities involved in the mining industry.

“Obviously, we have to go back to the drawing board so far as education is concerned, it is not for a lack of trying, there are billboards, people are seeing them but at the same time not seeing them,” National Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said.

Trotman, who along with the Indigenous Peoples' Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock, met with officials of the National Working Group on the Minamata Convention on Mercury recently, said the use of mercury still exists in many villages, and more often than not, those very villagers are facilitating the practice.

“In the very villages mentioned, it is the villagers themselves who are using the mercury, sometimes you run away with the idea that it is some outside miner that does it and the villages look on helpless, but invariably I'm finding that they are very much involved.”

The meeting was aimed at bringing stakeholders up to date on the developments regarding the national action plan for the Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector and government's efforts on the elimination of the use of mercury.

Trotman said that while he understood the challenges involved in moving away from the practice, the Government is working on an alternative and reiterated a committed to working closer with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA).

Allicock said that further education was necessary to eradicate the use of mercury and protect lives and the environment.

“This calls for a lot of education if we are going to save the environment, not only the minor, but also the people living there… a lot of time they do not know, so education is necessary,” the Indigenous Peoples' Affairs Minister noted.

Allicock said while much has been done not all Guyanese have taken on the education programme.

“I don't look at this as a project, but a programme… We need within the communities, environmental personnel to help promote the Government's efforts in protecting the environment,” he stated.

Elemental and methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal.

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