JIS News

MANDEVILLE — Minister of Housing, Environment and Water, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says he is satisfied with measures put in place by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to contain a toxic leak at a gold mine in Pennants, Clarendon, and make the site safe.

“I am very happy to know that they (NEPA) were able to put all their emergency (measures in place) and I am satisfied that all steps have taken place to render the place safe,” the Minister told reporters on July 20, 2011 after touring the site.

He was accompanied by Minister of Energy and Mining, Hon. Clive Mullings; Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, who is also Member of Parliament for North Central Clarendon; and technical personnel from NEPA.

Minister Chang informed that steps are being taken to remove and relocate the container of toxic cyanide salt from the inactive plant, which is believed to have been the pollutant leaked.  “We have the thing under control and there is no threat to the community; there is no threat to the (nearby) river,” he assured.

He said that in the meantime, the Mines and Geology Division will be having discussions with the owner of the mine in addressing the matter. “We will recover all expense required to render the place safe because it is a quite costly operation that has to be done by scientists under very strict regulatory conditions,” he stated.

Minister Charles, in his comments, noted that after the leak was discovered, the emergency team was quick to respond, which helped to ease the anxiety of the residents in the area.

The cyanide leak was discovered by NEPA after a team from the agency went to the site to investigate reports that an animal died after drinking water from a restricted area.

In its preliminary report, NEPA stated that water in a section of the site could have contained cyanide, but have said that there is no risk to the public.

Meanwhile, Minister Chang, at a press conference earlier this week, indicated that operations at the gold mine, which ceased nearly two years ago, could resume soon.

He said the operators, AUSJAM Limited, have advised that they wished to return to re-activate the site, based on reports of additional gold deposits in the area.

 

By GARFIELD L. ANGUS, JIS Reporter