Once again, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association [GGDMA] publicly affirms its unequivocal support for the Minamata Convention on mercury. We also make it crystal clear that in keeping with the tenor of the Convention the Government of Guyana is required to provide technical and financial assistance to Small Scale miners so that gold mining can be done in a responsible manner.
Further, the GGDMA reaffirms that decisions that affect the mining sector must be based on valid data and sound science. We do believe that our firm positions on these matters are well known.
In the circumstances the GGDMA categorically rejects the wrong-headed editorial, captioned “Towards the ban on mercury”’ in the Guyana Chronicle of August 18, 2018. Based on current views, we are forced to consider the editorial an ill- conceived and wanton attack on the gold miners in general and the GGDMA in particular. Certainly, the editor could have referred to the report in the Guyana Chronicle of June 1, 2010 captioned “Collaborative study of Mercury in fish by MOH and GENCAPD concludes” for factual information about the occurrence of mercury in Guyana.
The study was multiyear and among the conclusions stated in the 2010 Chronicle report is that methyl mercury occurs naturally in the environment, and that seasonal erosion of soils and jetting in the extractive process of gold were the key paths for entrance of mercury into the aquatic food chain. The 2010 Chronicle report also pointed out that the study found that mercury levels in carnivorous fish in both mining and non-mining hinterland areas exceeded the critical limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The editorial in a rush to judgement of the miners and GGDMA carelessly includes magnetic separation as a key mercury based alternative to gold processing. That is patently wrong. But even more sad, is that the editorial mentions sluicing as an alternative to mercury based extraction. The editor appears to be blissfully unaware that the main current method of processing of gold by local miners is sluicing.
As if this was not sufficient, the Ministry of Natural Resources joined in the ill-conceived and wanton attack with the veiled threat that the GGDMA must decide if it wants to be a political pressure group. The GGDMA is registered under the Trade Union Act of Guyana and will vigorously and fearlessly defend the rights of the miners and partners. And so, when roads to mining areas are in deplorable conditions, the GGDMA will state the facts. When the fiscal regime is deliberately punitive it is only reasonable that the GGDMA will vigorously fight for change. And when the Minamata Convention says elimination of mercury in small scale mining is ONLY required if feasible, the GGDMA abides by the convention.
So now the Chronicle editorial seems to suggest that notwithstanding what the international convention says, Guyana is determined to enforce more stringent conditions on the local miner. So the GGDMA has to holler. The GGDMA has to ask why this unwarranted attack on Guyana’s local miners.
We detected a pattern since Guyana refuses to implement the UNFAO definition of deforestation which notes that clearing of forest only becomes deforestation if it is a permanent change. Instead, Guyana insists on another definition that intends to penalize and stigmatize local mining and miners. Are these actions centrally controlled? The GGDMA as a responsible organization must seek answers for its membership. And since credible answers are not forthcoming, the GGDMA has to ask, Mr. President do you know what the local miners are facing?