Mercury-free technologies for regions 8, 9

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and CI-Guyana Vice President David Singh seated during the launch of the project (Adrian Narine photo)

– as CI, partners launch initiative to promote responsible mining

DEMONSTRATION sites will be established in Regions Eight and Nine to expose small and medium scale gold miners to mercury-free technologies as Guyana embarks on another initiative to eliminate the use of mercury for small and medium scale mining.

That project – ‘GEF Gold/Supply Chain Approach to Eliminating Mercury in Guyana’s Artisanal, Small and Medium Scale Gold Mining Sector’ – was launched on Thursday at Cara Lodge by Conservation International-Guyana (CI Guyana) in partnership with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).

The project, which forms part of a larger initiative – ‘El Dorado Gold Responsible Mining for Guyana,’ is being funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and CI, the World Wild Life Fund and the Government of Guyana.

In the presence of Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and CI-Guyana Vice President David Singh, Project Director of the GEF Gold Component of El Dorado Gold, Ingrid Sarabo, explained that the project will guide the transition to mercury-free mining and simultaneously promote the adoption of environmentally-friendly approaches to mining in Guyana’s ASGM sector.

It was noted that the project has six components. The first component is designed to promote mercury-free technologies and practices among small scale miners. “By the end of this project appropriate mercury-free technologies will have been transferred through demonstrations and training,” Sarabo said.

CI and its partners have already identified communities within Regions Eight and Nine for the demonstration of these technologies.

“There will be demonstration sites established in the Mahdia/Campbelltown and Upper Potaro areas in Region Eight as well as in the Marudi Mountain area in Region Nine, while outreach and engagement activities will take place in communities across the mining districts,” the project director explained.

The second component of the project would see the establishment of a mechanism for financing artisanal miners who utilise mercury-free technologies and more efficient and environmentally friendly practices than those currently in use.

Under the third component, a chain of custody process in the production of gold, including a verification mechanism, would be developed as well as the establishment of arrangements for direct market access for the Eldorado Gold Brand, both locally and internationally.

Focus will also be placed on strengthening or where necessary, the crafting of policies, regulations and guidelines to support responsible gold production and value added.
Sarabo noted that major emphasis will be placed on information sharing, not only across Guyana but across countries where the Global GEF Programme is being implemented.
The Global GEF Programme is also being executed in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru, and the Philippines.

Minister Trotman said Government fully endorses the project. He noted that the Government has developed a three-prong approach to tackling the reduction and ultimately the elimination of mercury in Guyana.

He explained that the Government through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board will monitor the import and use of mercury here.

“We are working… [to] ensure that mercury cannot and should not enter into our country in the manner in which it was allowed decades ago and when it does it should not be disbursed widely as it was before,” the Natural Resources Minister said.

He pointed out that the administration is providing incentives to small and medium scale miners who utilise alternatives to mercury, in mining for gold. Government is also in partnership with key stakeholders in the sector, the GDDMA, the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO), the National Mining Syndicate and the National Toshaos Council in its quest to eliminate the use of mercury by artisanal miners.

Singh said CI-Guyana has taken note of the effects of gold mining on the environment, noting that while the industry is an important bedrock for the country’s economy, it significantly affects the eco system.

For that reason, he said the project, will allow for sustainable mining and a green economic future for the country.

El Dorado Gold – the larger project – encourages actions around responsible mining for Guyana. The initiative encompasses a Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) funded mining projects.

Since 2013, Guyana is a signatory to the Minamata Convention – an international treaty intended to protect citizens’ health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury. In keeping with the treaty, the country through several initiatives have been exploring ways to reduce and eliminate the use of the mercury – El Dorado Gold, being one such project.

But the project also comes at a time when the country is pursuing a green model of development that places emphasis on sustainable management of natural resources.