Following mysterious deaths and growing speculations, two teams have been deployed by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to investigate mercury emissions at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Brickdam complex.
The situation over the past few months has generated immense conjecture that workers attached to the entity, would have died as a result of complications that are linked to long-term exposure to high levels of mercury emissions.
Commonly referred to as “quicksilver”, mercury is an element used primarily in Guyana’s gold sector. Researchers have indicated that high levels of exposure to this element can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.
Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence, at a joint press briefing today (June 5, 2018) with Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, said the first PAHO team is expected in Guyana within days.
That team will assess the clean-up efforts that were completed last week at the GGMC’s Brickdam complex after the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) ceased gold burning in April due to health and safety concerns.
“They can be able to give a validation to the pronouncements issued by our local body. That team will then set the stage for the other investigative team that will come in and look at the protocol, standards of our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and so on,” Minister Lawrence explained.
The Minister also noted that the PAHO team will be working closely with the GGMC and GGB.
Further, the two ministries will examine their databases to determine previous mercury levels and exposures with the aim of reviewing same to ensure it meets international standards.
Minister Trotman said the government will pull out all stops to ensure the safety of workers and those who come into contact with mercury across the mining industry.
“Ultimately … We wish to restore confidence both in the workers and in the public that this issue is being addressed,” he said.
Minister Trotman reinforced “there is no evidence to say anyone has died”. He made the statement in relation to recent reports in local media outlets attributing the deaths of four GGMC workers to mercury exposure.
The Ministry has previously noted, “There is simply no existing empirical data which establish that mercury is responsible for the deaths of miners and GGMC workers in recent times”.
The Public Health Board will conduct a review of pathology reports of those deaths to effectively address these concerns.
However, Minister Lawrence cautioned media practitioners not to alarm persons with the information they are releasing. “The Ministry of Public Health we are open so please call for any clarification that you may need so we can help you to put your information out there,” she said.