– as Broomes declares no compromise on safety standards
By Jarryl Bryan
Newly installed Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, Simona Broomes, has put mining
operators on notice that this year, no quarter will be given to those who breach their workers’ Occupational Health and Safety regulations for the sake of “pushing work.”
Broomes was at the time addressing participants in the Small Miners’ forum, held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Lilliendaal, on Friday. Also present was the Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and Guyana Geology and Mines Commissioner (GGMC), Newell Dennison.
Pledging that she would not stand idly by and allow miners in search of gold to destroy those around them, the Minister promised to take a tough stance on miners who disregard occupational health and safety hazards.
“No more deaths,” Broomes declared. “Miners (must) treat their workers with utmost respect. You must see yourselves as owning businesses and so you must pay them. They are providing a service. They work hard. The workers do not exploit you and so you will not exploit them.”
“I’m going to put you on notice today, times have changed. We will start the course to charter a new direction,” she said. “I will not compromise my position when it comes to regulation and rights of people.”
Broomes gave one example of these breaches. She revealed that in a mining pit collapse some months back, she had received reports that miners had complained about cracks in the pit wall and had come out, only to be forced to return by order of the General Manager. A little while after, the pit wall had collapsed.
Last year a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the spate of mining deaths was ordered by President David Granger following Guyana’s worst mining incident in recent memory- the collapse of a Mowasi, Potaro mining pit that buried 10 miners alive.
It was conducted by Chairman Dr. Grantley Waldron, Colin Sparman, of Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA), a representative of the Ministry of Social Protection, with Jo Bayah as the Technical Advisor.
It had concluded that the regulatory agencies, in particular GGMC, did not have the focus, capacity or strategy to ensure that mining operations fulfilled their legal responsibilities under health and safety laws and requirements of the Mining Act.
After an examination of GGMC, the COI findings had revealed that even when GGMC performs its normal monitoring functions and flags a non-compliant operator, operators do not take it seriously and would continue their dangerous practices while the Commission looks the other way.
Meanwhile, Broomes also called for a return of the days when the camaraderie among miners was maintained. This was in view of the myriad of disputes plaguing the mining industry.
“Twenty-eight (28) years ago, as a small miner with a four-inch (dredge) I enjoyed the (generosity) of the large scale miners, who we could turn to for a pint of rice or a gallon of gasoline. But with the past administration, that kinship was destroyed.”
Broomes was vociferous that efforts against exploitation, human trafficking and environmental abuse would be amplified.
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