It appears keeping up production was more important than ensuring safe operations – EPA Head
The recent spill of approximately 5000 litres of fuel by Troy Resources Guyana Inc. at its Karouni Mine was a case of recklessness, says head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams.
During an interview with Kaieteur News last evening, Dr. Adams said that a cursory report submitted by the mining company revealed that the key person involved in the incident was a new employee who was not trained.
“Of course that is no excuse but that is not even the worse part.” According to Dr. Adams, Troy Resources had two safety systems at its disposal which could have prevented the incident but they were not in operation.
In explaining the chain of events that took place, Dr. Adams said, “It was supposed to be a transfer of fuel into a storage tank. The fuel comes in for them to use and they put it into a tank and when the tank gets full there is an actuator which shuts off the flow into the tank when it is full, but that was not operational and it overflowed.”
The EPA head added, “Then there is a pipe for emergency that leads out of the secondary containment area that they have to receive the fuel. That pipe was supposed to have a valve on it but it was missing.”
Dr. Adams said that based on telephone conversations with company officials, they were not even aware that the valve went missing. Dr. Adams also said that there is normally supposed to be an experienced person overseeing such operations.
“But there was no one overlooking and it had to be running for hours for 5000 litres to escape. It means nobody was paying attention. These are the things that could cause fires, explosions and even death. So it was a case of sheer recklessness,” the EPA official said.
On this note, Dr. Adams expressed concern that Troy Resources’ operations was being conducted in this matter when just a few months ago, it was forced to suspend works following the death of its geologist, Ryan Taylor.
When Taylor passed away, Troy Resources told the Guyanese public via a paid advertisement in November last that it would make every effort to improve its worker’s safety practices. The company said too that all employees would be retrained in the basics of safety before returning to the pit.
Considering this, Dr. Adams said, “So imagine my dismay after hearing that they were not sure when one of the valves went missing. They said it could have been missing during the time it had shut down operations following Taylor’s death. Now how you can start up and not check to ensure everything is in place? It leaves one to question what else is not there that could cause a higher safety risk.”
What is also troubling for the EPA head is the fact that continuing production seems to be more important to Troy Resources than the safety of its workers.
Dr. Adams said, “And as you know, this is something I preach in every one of my presentations. I always say we cannot allow this to happen. Safety has to be of a much higher priority than production and in this case, it was not. Safety has to be a culture of every operation in this country.”
Dr. Adams noted that this is indeed the first time Troy Resources is before the EPA for such an issue and will be fined approximately $1M for its careless behaviour. He also noted that it was made aware of the incident by the Australian company. Dr. Adams said that the company’s permit requires that it reports immediately, any spill or upset in the operations.
As a result of the coronavirus crisis, the EPA head said that he would not be able to send a team to do an independent assessment.
For now, the agency would have to rely on discussions as well as further reports from the company.
According to Dr. Adams, Troy Resources has to submit a comprehensive report today on the impact of the spill on the environment, whether it got into the surface or ground water, what clean up action was taken and what mechanisms will be put in place to prevent a reoccurrence. Another report on the incident would also be required on April 3, 2020.
Once the coronavirus issue settles, Dr. Adams said a team will be sent to the mine to ensure what was submitted was accurate.
OPERATIONS WILL CONTINUE
In spite of the operational mishap, the EPA head confirmed that the company will not halt works. It is however required to re-sensitize every worker on understanding that safety has to be of a higher priority, higher than production. He said too that Troy Resources was asked to empower every employee to have shut down authority.
“This means that if they see anything that raises a question of safety they can stop everything. I would have liked to see them pause all work for two days and sensitize all workers but the current situation doesn’t allow for that because they are rotating people and some are flying in and going out back. So it would be difficult to get all 270 employees at once for training,” Dr. Adams told Kaieteur News.
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