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– claim GGMC encouraging sameResidents of Mahdia are complaining of major health risks associated with the operations of unlicensed gold traders in their town. They are contending that these gold dealers are unlicensed and performing smelting operations without having extractors to filter mercury. As a result, the residents are calling on the authorities to intervene and bring a halt to the illegal operations in the mining district.The residents are alleging that the operations are known to officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), however, they continue to allow the illegal operations.According to residents, the illegal operators are paying the GGMC officials and even giving them gold in order to continue their trade.A few of the residents reached out to Guyana Times on Monday stating that the issue has been ongoing for a long time and several reports were made to GGMC officials in the town but nothing is being done about it.“We complained to GGMC officers that are right here and they know exactly who these illegal operators are. They visited the people and supposedly instructed them to cease operations and closed the location, however, as soon as the officers left they reopened as normal and have remained open since. What does this tell you?” a resident asked.“Mahdia is a small place and everybody knows what is going on. There’s no way that you can get instruction to close and you still operating and the GGMC officers that are right here won’t know. Everyone knows that they accepting pay from these people. These people handling mercury without any proper extraction and it’s not safe for us,” the resident further stated.Mahdia is a hotspot for the trading of raw gold and as a result, persons flock the area for the purchasing of gold.There are several licensed operators that carry out their trade with all the precautionary methods as stipulated by GGMC, however, as of recent, there has been an upsurge in illegal traders who are non-compliant to the health and safety standards and necessary license for such operations.It was also related that officials from the Guyana Gold Board are also purchasing gold from the illicit traders.A licensed operator who wished to remain anonymous told this publication on Monday that one such illegal trader operates next door to him and after concerns were raised, GGMC officials closed the business but after a while, it was back in operation.“Imagine the GGMC workers went to these people, they couldn’t produce license and they didn’t meet the requirements for safety and they still operating. The officers claimed they told them to close but that can never be true because they couldn’t be operating if these people instruct them to close. They taking pay all the time up here. People giving them big gold chain and thing and they good. They forget people put them there to do a job which they are being paid for. They know of the dangers this kind of thing poses and they just don’t care. They only care about the bribe they taking,” he said.The furious residents called for a full investigation into the allegations and are hopeful for an urgent intervention from the relevant authorities in bringing an end to the problem.On Sunday last, a video surfaced on social media showing gold traders smelting gold in the mining town and no extractors were being used to filter mercury and fumes are being released in the business and residential locations where residents work and dwell.The Guyana Bold Board in March last, announced that it will commence mobile purchasing of gold in various communities as it seeks to not only maximise its gold declarations by year end but also ensure compliance with the country’s anti-money laundering laws. The first stop of this mobile gold purchasing initiative was the town of Mahdia.Guyana Gold Board Public Affairs and Communications Officer, Johann Earle had said that the exercise is in no way meant to encroach on the business of the authorised gold dealers. However, the initiative was necessary as many small miners found it challenging to travel to the Guyana Gold Board locations in Georgetown and Bartica to sell small amounts of gold.With regard to mercury concerns, Earle had assured that the Board has taken steps to ensure that there is no threat of mercury emissions during the gold purchasing exercises.For the purpose of the mobile buying exercise, the Guyana Gold Board fabricated a miniature mercury abatement system. This system had been tested and is functioning as it was designed to, he said.