Guyana could adopt South Africa’s mercury-free mining model
Based on reports of increased levels of mercury in waterways of interior regions, Government has made a further commitment to confront the issue, as Guyana will be partnering with South Africa to introduce mercury-free recovery methods in the gold mining sector as it seeks to enter commercial mining.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has said that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) would need to partner on the mercury-free mining initiative so as to ensure that the environment and people are protected.The South African Government has expressed a willingness to share its bleach gold recovery method as a cost-effective and equally efficient means of recovering gold. A delegation who recently visited Guyana plans to take a number of Guyanese miners to South Africa to observe the gold recovery system.Guyana is among eight countries which will partner with the Conservation International/Global Environmental Facility (CI/GEF) programme, with the aim of ensuring mercury-free mining worldwide.The urgent action is needed to protect millions of men, women and children who are exposed to toxic levels of mercury through gold production every year. This is the main contention of the backers of the new $180 million programme, in seeking to reform the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining sector (ASGM).The programme – the global opportunities for the long-term development of the ASGM sector (GEF GOLD) – aims to reduce the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining, and introduce and facilitate access to mercury-free extraction methods, while at the same time working with Governments to formalise the sector, promoting miner rights, safety and their access to markets.In addition to Guyana, the programme spans several other countries including Burkina Faso, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, the Philippines and Peru.The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), are other partners in the programme.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman said GGMC has been discussing the possibility of becoming a gold producer rather than being just a licencing and regulatory authority. This idea, if properly introduced, could help to increase profits for the company.Trotman related that Guyana may not be at that stage yet but could start with a mercury-free model, to demonstrate to the other miners not only how one can mine without mercury but also how they can mine without mercury and still be profitable.Guyana has been taking steps to eliminate the use of mercury in mining here. Several days ago, a meeting of a National Working Group (NWG) on the “Minamata Convention on Mercury” was convened at the Natural Resources Ministry’s Main Street offices in Georgetown.Guyana signed the Convention on Mercury on October 10, 2013, ratifying it on September 24, 2014. Guyana was also elected as one of the two Vice-Presidents from the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) to serve on the Bureau of the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP 3).At the meeting, Policy Analyst at the Natural Resources Ministry, Mariscia Charles, said the Minamata Convention follows and builds on the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions which came into force on August 16, 2017.This was the first global agreement on health and the environment for close to a decade. She reminded participants of Guyana’s participation in the plenary sessions which focused on freeing the Amazon from the impacts of mercury used in ASGM.In September 2017, President David Granger attended the inaugural Conference of Parties (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, where he affirmed Guyana’s position and committed to the elimination of mercury usage by 2027.