…South African team to explore prospect of local gold refineryNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman announced that an expert review would be conducted on the Guyana Gold Board’s Laboratory to determine its viability and functioning, following the discovery of unusually high levels of mercury emission at its Brickdam, Georgetown Laboratory.Since the discovery, the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) contracted the services of Trinidad-based Kaizen Environmental Services to conduct an independent investigation of the effect of the emission, which has proven that the mercury levels are back to normal.According to the report, the study was conducted on March 28 at 10 locations primarily within the Guyana Geology and Mines Commissions’ compound and surrounding areas.“The Mercury (Hg) levels monitored at all 10 locations were within the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USOSHA) eight-hour Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL),” the report stated.Trotman reiterated that the agency has conducted a number of tests and concluded that the mercury levels in the laboratory are normal. However, he noted that out of over 130 staffers tested, it was discovered that more than 60 reported high levels of mercury in their system but said they are monitoring the situation in collaboration with the Public Health Ministry.The Minister said they are working assiduously to implement long-term plans to ensure that there is not a reoccurrence of the situation. To do this, he said he will be proposing an independent expert review of the functions of the Gold Board’s Laboratory to ensure that safety is paramount.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman with members of the Guyana Gold Board“I am going to speak to the Chairman to have an expert review with the recommendations for the future of the lab. If it should be continued, where it is to be housed if it to be and I do believe that perhaps a new facility is needed but that facility is to be protected,” he said.“One of the advantages of having the lab and the HHMC in the same compound is the security. We’re speaking about gold and we are speaking about safety and security of not just the people but also of the commodity. So we have to have a highly secured facility and so we need to find a place that could offer that,” Trotman added.Meanwhile, Gold Board’s General Manager Eondrene Thompson said Kaizen conducted ambient air tests and just Thursday, the representatives revisited the laboratory and recommended a mercury analysis. She added that they are expected to bring in their equipment to have that done soon.So far, the GGB spent over $300,000 in tests. Additionally, the Activation Lab on the East Coast Demerara has recommended that two monitors be installed to keep an eye on mercury emission levels.“A representative came and done a walkthrough of the system and he recommended that we have two monitors, one to the port – when there is burning and also at the chimney and he will bring those two equipment in and this is what we have been doing to ensure the safety of our staff and GGMC’s also,” she stated.Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Board, GHK Lall said the results are comforting and noted that the report submitted by Kaizen in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency would be made public soon.“What we are doing is over-compensating. This is a continuous process for us and we want to give ourselves and the people outside there – everybody – that we are going above and beyond to put layers and layers of this inspection, of testing, results that we have got a comfort level to an extreme degree,” Lall said.RefineryNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Friday afternoon announced that representatives from South African Precious Metals are expected to arrive in Guyana shortly to explore the possibility of setting up a gold refinery here.Trotman said Government has already received a number of proposals from both local and foreign companies to set up a processing plant in Guyana. He said the move towards a refinery is to modernise the sector, noting that it would be set us either through public private partnership or fully financed by the Government.Guyana currently exports all of its raw gold, which amounts to roughly 600,000 ounces annually.