Mining plays a critical role in the economic development of Guyana. However, this activity comes with an environmental price tag, which can be avoided to an extent, or mitigated by means of appropriate technology and prudent management of the physical, socio-cultural and biological components of the environment. Recent studies seem to suggest that small scale mining is increasing as a livelihood activity. To date, there are approximately 10,000 artisanal and small scale miners operating in Guyana. In many instances, these miners, in their quest for income and a better quality of life, have directly or indirectly impacted negatively on the environment. More importantly, Guyana has developed a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which sets out a sustainable trajectory for the country to follow.
In this context, proactive environmental management is desirable for small and medium scale mining. Over the years, measures to promote environmental management have been predominantly reactive, rather than proactive. At the same time there has been growing recognition of and concerns about the environmental impacts of mining. In particular, social impacts have been considered to be severe since hinterland communities are often unprepared for the intruding cultures with their associated value systems and also in some cases changes in their communities’ economic base and livelihood systems. Emphasising environmental and social impact assessment prior to ground breaking indicates an interest in planning and making proper provision for the environment and societies/communities a given activity is likely to affect. The use of appropriate environmental management systems (EMSs) would allow one to set up a procedural base to deal with the environment operationally. The ultimate objective of the EMS is to promote continuous improvement of environmental protection on the part of miners within a framework of their production activities. Further, in effort to improve environmental protection in small scale mining activities, a suitable and simple EMS is required, as the current systems do not achieve the objectives and are not applicable.