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Too many young men are dying to make a living in the goldfields, says former President David Granger. Seventeen persons died between August 2020 and October this year and the mining sector accounted for over 50 per cent of all workplace deaths last year.
Appearing on his weekly programme, the ‘Public Interest’, Mr. Granger called for compliance with mining regulations in order to reduce the number of deaths occurring in the sector. He asserted that, while the mining industry is essential to the economy of the country, its safety record has been rotten, resulting in disease, disability, death and injury.
Mining districts possess limited health, safety and ‘search-and-rescue’ services. About 4,500 COVID cases and 20,000 cases of malaria were recorded in the five hinterland regions annually.
“Mining is also plagued by occupational health and safety problems. Rainfall, ponding of water, vibration and pressure from heavy-duty equipment make soil unstable and increase the risk of pit wall failure. Artisanal and large-scale companies fail to implement adequate safety measures resulting in the non-enforcement of Occupational Health and Safety regulations. Some employers do not ensure a safe, and secure working environment,” Mr. Granger lamented.
Despite the 150-year long history of gold- and diamond-mining in Guyana, the industry still needed to be placed on a safe occupational footing. Government’s policy should focus not only on revenue collection but, also, on environmental protection, infrastructural development and the enforcement of the law and regulations.
There is no lack of protective legislation, the former President said. The Mining Act provides, especially, for employers’ responsibility for the ‘health, safety and welfare of workers’; the Occupational Health and Safety Act mandates the establishment of ‘mine rescue stations’ in the industry, and the Environmental Protection Act is concerned about ‘the health and safety of human beings’, among other things.
The Former President recalled that the APNU+AFC, while in government, recognised the challenges facing the mining sector and implemented measures to ensure human safety. He reminded that the coalition established the Corps of Wardens to monitor mining areas; reorganised hinterland police divisional structures to enhance public security and opened opportunities for training under the Ministry of Natural Resources.
People are more important than profits, Mr. Granger said. “Above all, employers in the mining industry must safeguard human health and safety. There is no reason why so many young men should end up dying to make an honest living.”