Sep 27, 2021 News
– Says Commission working to improve safety practices, reduce deaths by 75% in five years
“We have interviewed miners and we’d ask, ‘Hey, do you see some of the dangers here?’ And they can identify them for you. But then you ask them why they are still working in those conditions and they would say ‘Boss if we don’t go after it then how are we doing to feed our families?’ What we try to explain to them is, ‘How can you feed your family if you are deceased?”
Kaieteur News – Mining ranks high on the list as one most dangerous and life-threatening jobs in the world. Globally, more than 15,000 persons die every year as a result of mining-related accidents—and this is just the official number of deaths. Guyana is not exempt from this curse of fatality, as there are several mining related deaths and accidents that are recorded annually, as persons chase the wealth to behold in this gold-bountiful country. And just to paint the picture of the wealth in question, Guyana was able to rake in US$809 million in gold export revenues for last year alone.
Given the high-risk associated with this industry, Senior Environmental Officer at the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Darcy Walrond, is urging miners and potential ones to practice safe mining, as the risk of going after gold is not worth their life. Walrond pushed this message in his debut appearance on Kaieteur Radio’s Governance, Corruption and Justice programme last week where he discussed mining in Guyana and the role of GGMC.
In giving statistics, Walrond indicated that between the periods of 2017 to 2021, 51 persons lost their lives due to mining-related accidents. Of that figure, 54% were caused by pit wall cave-ins, while tree falls accounted for 35%. Notably, for the year 2021, reports of mining-related deaths took a significant decline, as Walrond related that only three individuals lost their lives due to mining. Two died as a result of tree falls, while the other one died as a result of a pit cave-in. These three lost lives pose a stark difference to the 13 persons who lost their lives in 2020.
To reduce mining-related accidents and deaths, Walrond pointed out that GGMC has been engaging miners and General Managers (GMs) in continuous awareness programmes, which are aimed at educating them about the dangers of mining, and how they can operate in safe conditions.
“We go out with reading materials and DVDs to educate them. We do a lot of interpersonal interactions with the workers, GMs, and we also took a questionnaire to figure out how better we can put the message over,” he said.
Further to this, Walrond stated, that through the mining school, the GGMC has been conducting training for General Managers so that they could be better equipped to identify and avoid mining risks.
“In the environmental division, we have decided that we are going to take a technical approach to understand the engineering principles to help safeguard miners. We are doing a project in the Mahdia area where we are going to take geotechnical work, so we can be able to say that based on these conditions, that this is the best type of mining that should be done; these are the bench heights and these are the slopes that should be used in this type of soil,” Walrond explained.
Based on studies done by GGMC, the Environmental Officer was able to share that 33% of mining-related accidents occur in the rainy season when the soil is oversaturated. Reworked mining areas also pose a threat to safe operations, he noted, since the soil becomes unconsolidated.
To this end, Walrdond conveyed, “We are taking engineering principles to come up with solutions to help safeguard miners against accidents. We are going to use these principles of soil properties to educate the miners themselves, and develop mining plans so that they can work in a way that is safe.”
But even with rigorous sensitization and awareness programmes on the part of the GGMC, the decision to ensure safe mining operations is up to the miners themselves and their supervisors.
Going forward, Walrond stated that one of the goals of GGMC, is to reduce mining deaths by at least 75% per cent over the next five years. He reaffirmed the Mining Commission’s commitment to working assiduously with its stakeholders and miners to ensure the prosperity of this sector, as well as, the hundreds of thousands of lives who benefit directly or indirectly from the lucrative mining sector.
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