CIRDI’s Technical Training to Reduce Mercury Polution in Guyana

June 3, 2015

In 2013, the Government of Guyana signed the United Nations Environment Programme Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Now, with financial assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and CIRDI expertise, Guyana is taking steps to green its mining sector — and, specifically, to find solutions to mercury pollution associated with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).

Some 20,000 people in Guyana are employed by mining-related activity, with roughly 75 percent of the sector’s yield delivered by small- and medium-scale mining operations. Many of these operators lack the skills and knowledge to reduce the negative impacts of their activities while increasing their production yields.
In collaboration with the Government of Guyana and the IDB, CIRDI has embarked on a program to develop and deliver locally relevant technical skills courses for Guyanese workers that will contribute to more sustainable mining practices. A highly qualified team of CIRDI researchers and educators had its first field visit to Guyana in March 2015. The first step was a meeting involving CIRDI program lead Hernan Ruiz, University of Guyana Chemistry Department head Patrick Ketwaru and IDB representatives. They met with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, industry associations, the Guyana Mining School and Training Centre and others to review the project plan and objectives.

Through their discussions, members of the visiting team also learned first-hand about Guyana’s political and administrative frameworks — valuable background to help inform project planning going forward, as well as future meetings with local stakeholders. Subsequently, team members Adam Kiefer and Kevin Drace, both professors and researchers at Mercer University, and Stephen Metcalf, an experienced ASM educator, travelled to four different Guyanese mine sites to collect information about mining practices and contamination levels. Another key objective included learning about stakeholders and interest groups. The team’s work also involved reviewing past and current education initiatives to identify success stories and opportunities for collaboration.

A resulting needs assessment report will inform the development of a customized training model for Guyana’s extractive sector. The team will launch the training initiatives in a follow-up visit to Guyana, scheduled for summer 2015.

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