AFTER several months of collaborative outreaches to investigate industrial and regulatory issues within the mining sector, the Ministry of Labour has partnered with the Guyana Gold & Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to establish a tripartite committee to address Occupational, Health and Safety (OHS) concerns within the mining industry.
According to Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton, the idea for the committee stemmed from discussions between himself and GGDMA officials. He said serious concerns about the safety of miners and the fact that several have lost their lives during mining mishaps were expressed.
“I had a meeting with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association, and, coming out of the discussion, I had had a discussion with the GGMC on the same matter, I submitted, or recommended that we have a committee where all three of the parties can sit to discuss issues in the mining districts regarding occupational health and safety,” he said.
During an interview with this publication, the minister detailed the ministry’s urgency in organising a meeting for the three parties to collaborate on minimising reckless deaths and accidents within the mining industry.
“All of those concerns we have to deal with because people are dying. In the five months that I have been here, seven persons have died in the mining industry, and five in the construction industry. So it’s not just any one amount we have to deal with totality in all the industries,” he said.
He further added that the Ministry of Labour has received permission from the Public Service Ministry to expand the OHS Department in order to assist with supervision of the mining industry.
“When I arrived here, there were only nine OHS officers for the entire country. I can report that we will now have 18 more. So that will raise the number to 27. We already have permission from the Public Service Ministry to employ 18 persons for training. Our aim is to ensure that in every region, there are at least two OHS officers. We will get 10 more labour officers, pushing the number from 16 to 26, a lot of which [sic] would be based in the mining industry, because we have to maintain labour relations. People have died. People have killed each other over money, and we have dozens of reports coming in every day, people with substantial issues that need to be addressed,” the minister said.
According to Minister Hamilton, the 18 additional OHS officers are currently being trained for placement within the various regions to ensure proper supervision and interaction, while educating workers and employers alike about safety practices.
The deployment is also intended to foster effective communication between the industrial workers and the Ministry of Labour, in order to gather information on the work environment in the mining industry, and establish supervision on the industry’s health and safety.
The GGDMA and the minister anticipate that the committee could be established as soon as next week.
The proposed committee will comprise representatives from the GGMC, the GGDMA and the ministry’s OHS Department.