…says GGMC has encountered Toshaos, villagers enabling practiceNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman has revealed that even as Government tries to mitigate the harmful effects of mercury on the environment, some villages are, in fact, complicit in the use of mercury and the destruction it causes.Trotman made this revelation during the Minamata Convention – a stakeholder session set up to develop strategies for eradicating mercury use. According to the Minister, villagers and Toshaos in some mercury-scarred villages are facilitating the miners responsible.“In (some) villages, it is the villagers themselves that are using the mercury. So if you run away with the belief that it is (always) some outside miner who goes in and the villagers look on helplessly, invariably I’m finding that they’re very much involved.”“I have asked GGMC to mount some operations that cost over $1 million to go to some far-flung communities and when we get there it is the Toshaos who is giving permission to a Brazilian or some relative of his is doing the mining.”According to Trotman, such a situation would be very embarrassing since the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission would have acted based on reports of illegal mining. That being said, Trotman acknowledged that his Ministry and GGMC has to redouble its efforts towards mercury-free mining.Trotman also spoke of a model mercury-free operation; a project that could be taken on through the provision of mining blocks. He noted that a number of blocks could be distributed to the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) for this purpose.“I had set aside 15 blocks for the GGDMA to do just that,” Trotman said. “The idea was that we would set up a model mining operation, mercury-free. So at the level of the Government, I am committing to working closer with the GGDMA.”MinamataThe convention was organised in keeping with the Minamata Convention on Mercury – a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.It was agreed to at the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury in Geneva, Switzerland on January 19, 2013, and was later adopted on October 10, 2013.The convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the convention.Major highlights of the convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phasing out of existing ones, the phasing out and phasing down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.The convention also addresses interim storage of mercury, and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.There have previously been reports on increased levels of mercury in several waterways in interior regions. Additionally, the Guyana Water Inc was forced to temporarily close its Port Kaituma well after it discovered high mercury content in the Kaituma River.Last year, the discovery of high levels of mercury in the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) laboratory in Georgetown had led to Trinidad-based Kaizen Environmental Services being contracted to conduct an independent investigation on the effect of the emission.Research shows that mercury can enter the body through inhalation of mercury vapour, ingestion, injection or even absorption through the skin.In the case of mining personnel, a reading showing levels of 0-6 micrograms per litre is considered safe while 7-10 is high and above 11 is dangerous. Once in the human system, mercury poisoning has horrendous effects on neurological, reproductive, gastrointestinal and renal organs.