GGMC intensifies tailings monitoring in mining districts
Guyana Chronicle
November 12, 2003

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GINA -- The incidence of typhoid fever and other water-borne diseases, particularly in mining districts has been a source of concern to many hinterland residents who charge that the effluence from tailings ponds contaminate their water.

In an effort to detect levels of turbidity or murkiness from mines, that overflow into nearby communities, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has stepped up its monitoring measures through the introduction of a turbidity wedge.

During a recent visit to Region One, (Barima/Waini) as part of the Prime Minister's delegation, Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Robeson Benn, tested samples of water around mining camps in the region.

Benn defined turbidity as being derived from the total suspended solids from among the solid material carried along with the water in mining tailings, coming down from mining operations.

He noted that the Commission intends to work closely with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association to have each mining camp equipped with a turbidity wedge by January 2004.

To effect the use of the wedge, Benn said, "We're requiring in the production form, a new column, where the miner is required to disclose the type of water he is discharging." According to the GGMC head, the meter will indicate the water at a clear, turbid or muddy level. The GGMC considers the clear reading as most acceptable.

The GGMC official said the aim of the exercise is to clamp down on errant miners whose tailings ponds prove unsound, through the escape of waste that contaminates water flowing to communities surrounding mining operations.

Demonstrating the use of the turbidity wedge recently at mining district Eyelash, in Region One, the GGMC Commissioner, explained that the turbidity wedge indicates in seconds, the total suspended solid material carried along with the water into mining communities.
Performing a community service

Benn pointed out that the GGMC considers turbid levels above 100 unacceptable, and after issuing two warnings to mining operators to bring this level down, failure to do so will result in the closure of the operation.

He emphasised that from next January, the GGMC plans to establish an "interim turbidity limit of 100." However, Benn conceded that readings will vary, due to the nature of mining in some districts, which employ the use of hoses for hydraulicing overburden, which produces slurry water.

In addition, operators move from one location to another, dependent upon the discovery of a fresh gold field, and this is another factor that has to be taken into consideration by field officers who may carry out sample tests, or seek to verify declarations.

Benn stated further, "The agreements which are in place for operations to move unto claims stipulate that clear water must be discharged, " adding that the intention is to have miners continue with the use of settlement ponds, recycled ponds, and other measures, to reduce sedimentation to the rivers into the receiving environment.

He expressed hope that with the introduction of the turbidity wedges, miners will observe the existing requirements, thereby reducing the incidence of contamination of water in nearby communities.