The controversial Omai gold mine which was shut down in August last year after a cyanide spill (Down to Earth, Vol 4, No 9) is to be reopened shortly, after a commission appointed by the Guyana government declared it safe. However, the recommendation comes alongwith a rider that improved environmental protection safeguards must be installed at the mine.
The Canadian-owned mine was closed after three million cubic metres of cyanide-tainted water spilled from a defective dam into rivers. While the use of cyanide as a means of extracting gold has fueled criticism, company officials maintain that the chemical was the most economic and also environmentally accepted means of gold extraction. They further add that they did not have any alternative other than discharging cyanide into the Essequibo, the largest river in Guyana. The environment protection measures will now ensure cyanide degradation before it is released into the Essequibo.