A multi-agency probe into the working conditions at the manganese mining site in Matthew’s Ridge, where several workers fell ill, resulting in two deaths, has found that the workers were clearing out old mining caves while not wearing protective gear.
The Public Health Ministry, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Health and Safety Department recently visited the mining site as part of their investigation into the origins of the infection that resulted in the illness of the Chinese miners and one Guyanese driver.
Consultant at the Occupational Health and Safety Department, Gweneth King, told reporters this afternoon that interviews with some of the miners and others who work in the area revealed the safety infraction.
She said she learnt that the workers were conducting clearing operations in the cave while not being properly attired in protective gear.When enquiries were made about the reason for that, the investigating team was told that the protective gear is in the country, but the shipment has not yet been cleared.
The mining cave that was being cleared had a lot of droppings from bats and rats that lived there. The cave had been closed since 1968.
Senior Environmental Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency, Camille Adams, explained that the mining site had not been fully assessed by the EPA. She said the agency was preparing to go into the area when it learnt of the workers falling ill.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud explained that a number of the miners who were brought out from the area and later flown to China by the company, tested positive for hiptoplasmosis.
Hiptoplasmosis is an infection by a fungus found in the droppings of birds and bats in humid areas. It is not serious if confined to the lungs but can be fatal if spread throughout the body.
He explained that the miners were exposed to the droppings for periods ranging from 4 minutes to 84 hours.
The two miners who died both spent 84 hours in the cave, over a ten-day period.
Dr. Persaud said he could not figure out why they would be doing so without protective gear.
He revealed that all the tests were negative for the H1NI flu and further tests also ruled out leptospirosis.
Dr. Persaud noted that all necessary precautions were taken when the patients were housed at the Georgetown Hospital although the infection could not have been transferred from person to person.