…claims deaths may be linked to mercury poisoningThe parliamentary Opposition has raised questions over the recent deaths of four Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) staffers; a matter that has seemingly been shrouded in an information blackout.In a statement issued on Friday, the party expressed condolences to the relatives of the deceased staffers, whose names were given as Dwayne De Jonge (ranger), Latchman Chiti (surveyor), Leroy Green (carpenter) and Clement Proffit (lab technician). According to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), the issue is one that must be addressed urgently by the relevant authorities.The Party also raised possible links to the mercury poisoning that had afflicted workers at the GGMC during amalgam burning exercises. According to the PPP, all four men were documented to have been affected by mercury poisoning.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and junior Minister Simona Broomes“These four deaths, which follow each other in such a short period of time, should be a cause for serious concern. It is disturbing that the Government and the GGMC have been reluctant to inform the staff and public about actions taken to ensure protection of not only staffers, but also those in surrounding communities.”“This is not a political issue,” the Party continued. “The PPP will support the Government of Guyana to ensure that every effort is made to guarantee the health and safety of our people. We therefore urge immediate action by the relevant authorities, including management of the GGMC and the Ministry of Public Health, to ensure the occupational health and safety standards are in place.”The Guyana Gold BoardAccording to the Party, precautionary measures such as testing and treatment for all staff must be operationalised by the GGMC and the Public Health Ministry. The cost for this, the Party advised, should be borne by the GGMC.“The PPP also supports the sourcing of specialists to respond to this matter before it becomes a bigger health crisis,” the party added.Calls by this publication to Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and his junior Minister Simona Broomes went unanswered. When contacted, a top-level official within the Ministry was also at a loss to provide information about the men. He could only confirm that the men were employed at the GGMC and indeed died but did not have any more information.When contacted, President of the Guyana Civil Servants and General Workers Union (GCS & GWU) Gregory Gaspar declined to comment on the issue. According to Gaspar, he could not confirm the deaths of the men.Sources have informed this publication, however, that the men died in close proximation with the last one as recent as a few days ago.Mercury exposureA few months ago, a number of GGMC staffers had walked off the job citing concerns over exposure to mercury. The decision resulted in the authorities trying to mediate around the issue.Following the discovery of high levels of mercury in its laboratory, which is in the GGMC compound, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) had contracted the services of Trinidad-based Kaizen Environmental Services to conduct an independent investigation of the effect of the emission, and that company has said the mercury levels are back to normal.According to the report, the study was conducted on March 28, 2018, at 10 locations primarily located within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commissions’ compound and the surrounding areas.“The mercury (Hg) levels monitored at all 10 locations were within the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US OSHA) eight-hour Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL),” the report stated.Out of over 130 staffers tested, it was discovered that more than 60 reported high levels of mercury in their system. Trotman, appearing before the National Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee, had subsequently revealed that the Gold Board had moved its gold burning operations to a private dealer.