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Govt to look into high mercury levels in Region 9

January 12, 2020

first_img– as over 200 residents affectedOne day after the Chairman of Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) complained about the high levels of mercury present in the region and affecting more than 200 residents in the Rupununi, Government, through Minister of State Joseph Harmon at last week’s post cabinet press briefing, has committed to look into the situation.Minister Harmon has said that while he does not have any information on the issue, he would engage the Natural Resources and Communities Ministries to ensure that the matter is looked into.“This is something that the President has actually been very firm on – the question of the use of mercury, particularly in the gold and diamond mining industries, where they use that in the extraction of (the minerals).“I don’t have the specific details of [this particular case], but what I can say is that wherever that has occurred, the Government will take very clear and decisive actions in regard (to having the situation addressed),” he assured.Region Nine Chairman, Brain Allicock, disclosed at a press conference on Thursday that the situation of high mercury levels in the Rupununi was discovered following studies and surveys conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with the South Rupununi District Council earlier this year. Villages in close proximity to areas with mining activities have been targeted.Allicock declared the situation is so severe that the metal has been detected in the systems of an entire village of some 200 residents, the contamination having occurred by the village using contaminated water.“Actually, one hundred per cent of the people in Para Bara are contaminated. That’s like 200-plus persons. There’re some other traces within nearby communities… some in Aishalton. They did several tests using the hair [of residents]. Samples were sent overseas too, to be analysed further, and they came up with the same type of results, with the indication as to where [is contaminated],” Allicock noted.Chairman Allicock explained that these villages are being affected because the ‘head water’ is contaminated, and as a result of the outflows of the rivers, the contamination gets into all the rivers. However, he noted that the only river not yet contaminated is the Rupununi.Chairman Allicock blames the presence of mercury in the region’s water network on illegal mining activities, which he said are proving to be difficult to eradicate.“There is a lot of illegal mining that cannot be controlled, even though we have rangers and so. There’s a network where, by the time I send our guys in — the military and the Police – everybody knows they’re going, so whatever they have, they put away and hide,” the Chairman revealed.He also highlighted that there are mining activities ongoing in certain restricted areas, but he said the miners have documents purportedly issued by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).Probed in this respect, the GGMC has denied issuing documents authorising mining activities in restricted areas, despite signatures and stamps being attached to those documents.“I don’t know if they have a similar stamp from GGMC anywhere else that they’re using to stamp these documents with signatures too… [But] the thing is, it’s our people that are suffering; not the people on the coast; not the ministers out here, but our people; and that’s what we have to address. How do we help our people to come out of those situations?” a concerned Allicock questioned.This is not the first report of mercury contamination coming out of the Region. Last week, officials from the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) decried “wilful” damages being registered on its infrastructure by illegal miners, saying this action is not only disrupting distribution services to communities such as Mahdia, but can also prove to be harmful to residents utilising water from those breached waterlines.“We don’t know what chemicals these miners are using, and if those chemicals get into the pipes, (they) could get to the communities. And these same miners will have families residing in Mahdia, and they won’t want to have chemicals which are dangerous to (people’s) health getting into the lines and then getting to (their) family members or friends or (their) loved ones. So that is one of the risks that are facing us right now,” GWI’s Planning and Implementation Director, Ramchand Jailall, highlighted.Last year, at the 1st Conference of parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva, Switzerland, President David Granger recommitted to eliminating the use of mercury in Guyana by 2027.Against this backdrop, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Friday disclosed that he has restricted the importation of 30,000 kg of mercury into Guyana from Mexico, given the increasing cases of mercury contamination occurring within the hinterland regions, coupled with the incident wherein employees of the GGMC and Guyana Gold Board have suffered from mercury poisoning.last_img

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