Illegal logging & mining reduced significantly – Min Bharrat

− says Govt has taken a proactive approach with forest management

Illegal logging and mining in Guyana’s hinterland, which is a problem that successive Governments have grappled with, is on the decrease. This is according to Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, who credits the Government’s more proactive approach with this decrease.

Illegal mining has particularly been an issue for the Iwokrama Protected Area

During an interview with this publication, Minister Bharrat explained that the forestry sector has fared much better over the last few months, with revenue on the increase. According to the Minister, significant changes have been made as it relates to the management of the mining and logging sectors.
“We’ve made significant changes in terms of the management of the sector. I think that was one of the issues when we took over. There was no clear direction. There were hardly resources to do forest monitoring,” he said.

Natural Resources Minister
Vickram Bharrat

“What we found was a lot of illegal logging. So, we have addressed the situation. I cannot say we have eliminated illegal logging and mining, but we have reduced it significantly over the last few months. And we will continue to work, if we can’t eradicate it fully, that we can minimise it to the lowest possible.”
He acknowledged that in some cases the terrain of interior regions has proven a challenge for the Government wardens. However, they are working on increasing the range of the wardens by incorporating more technology.
“We’ve been doing reconnaissance missions too. We’re not sitting down and waiting to be reactive. We have the core wardens, the compliance section headed by former Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud. He would have strengthened that unit to ensure we have proper monitoring in the interior regions.”
Meanwhile, the Minister also pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on Guyana’s log exports. According to him, something the sector has had to grapple with is the way the global pandemic has driven up shipping costs.
“With the pandemic, I’m sure as soon as we get some kind of relief from the pandemic which has taken a serious hit on the shipping of commodities, the cost of shipping, the entire global trade, we find that our exports are not as much as it should be. So as soon as we can return to some normalcy with that out of our way, we will see the forestry sector blossoming and being a sector to be reckoned with.”
Late last year, a joint operation conducted by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) had unearthed a massive tunnel mining operation in the New River Basin some 50 miles east of Masakenari, South Rupununi.
Investigators had said at the time that the persons who were conducting mining operations may have been utilising an illegal airstrip in Brazil, located some two miles south of the Guyana-Brazil border. The New River Basin is designated a Rare Earth Mineral Reserve and as such, mining is strictly prohibited in the area.
The Iwokrama Protected Area has also had its challenges with acts of illegal gold mining. In fact, earlier this year, it had announced that several camps were uncovered during a monitoring exercise.
In a statement, the agency had said illegal mining incursions in the protected area has been an issue since 2019 but became measurably worst in 2020 during the COVID restriction period when their monitoring capacity reduced.
Sometime in September 2019, a miner was arrested for illegally mining in the Iwokrama Forest and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had indicated that this individual should be charged and brought before the court under the Iwokrama Act.
Fast-forward to October 2020, the inter-agency team found itself targeted by gunfire from miners who quickly scampered away into the forest during an impromptu surveillance exercise. One arrest was made and the son of a prominent businessman in the North Rupununi area is now before the court and this case is ongoing.