The Guyana Gold Board says it is unable to meet with at least one Queenstown resident, who is upset over the decision for that agency to move its headquarters there.
The building, on Crown Street, is in the middle of that upscale city neighbourhood.
Gold Board moved there a few weeks ago after it was discovered that several staffers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), had elevated levels of mercury.
The mercury is believed to have come from the Gold Board area, located in the same Brickdam compound. The emissions were said to have come from the unsafe burning of gold sold by miners to the board.
Following the widespread reporting of the staffers becoming ill, authorities had stepped in, halting the burning of gold, and retaining the services of overseas experts to advise and make checks.
The Gold Board was in the meantime using the lab of a gold dealer to conduct the burning, which is an essential part of the process to check that gold sold is of the declared purity levels.
The offices of Gold Board were then moved to the Crown Street location. The building was being rented. However, although no gold is being burned there, there were objections, at least from one resident who has been on the case of Gold Board, Elizabeth Deane-Hughes.
The Gold Board had said that it had met with residents nearby to apprise them of the operations and to assure that there is equipment in place to ensure that the emissions are safe once the burning of gold starts.
Deane-Hughes in correspondence to the Gold Board, made it clear that some residents were not apprised of the intentions of the Gold Board to have its headquarters placed there.
In her missive, Deane-Hughes said that there is little that can nullify the “illegal act” of the government or quasi-governmental agency for setting up offices in the area. She requested a “roundtable discussion” with the board before 28 August 2018.
Among other things, Deane-Hughes requested that the Gold Board release the current contract with the landlord for the property situated in Crown Street, Queenstown. She also wanted to know the legal basis of GGB’s current occupancy at Crown Street, Queenstown, a residential neighbourhood.
GGB was also asked to disclose the legal basis of its continuing to occupy the current premises at Crown Street, and the scope and description of the current safety plans for residents. She also requested GGB to say when it will vacate the premises and whether there was insurance for residents should anything go wrong as a result of the Gold Board’s operations.
However, yesterday, the Gold Board’s General Manager, Eondrene Thompson, in responding to Deane-Hughes, said that board is unable to meet with the community at this time.
“…however they wish to assure you that GGB will spare no cost in its pursuit of a mercury free environment. In addition to the new technology being used by GGB, early warning mechanisms are in place to protect staffers and the community as a whole. Additionally, other government agencies are involved, and would be involved in the future, to assist and guide on the GGB’s oversight mechanisms.”
Thompson said that the Gold Board continues to collaborate with the Environmental Protection Agency which will be holding the GGB accountable for any breaches of its air quality regulations.
“The board lauds your strong interest and notes the ongoing concerns expressed. These will feature heavily in our operational and regulatory postures towards the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use. I assure you that Minister of Natural Resources Honourable Raphael G.C. Trotman, the Board and management are all committed to safety and health issues. This commitment is unswerving and nonnegotiable.”
The GM said that the board has taken a decision that no burning of sponge gold is to occur unless the mercury abatement system is fully functional as designed and the public has been notified of this.
“We must inform as well that our occupation of the Crown Street premises is meant to be a temporary arrangement, as Minister of Natural Resources Honourable Raphael G.C. Trotman is on record saying that lands will be sourced on which the Gold Board’s permanent home will be constructed.”
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