Iwokrama unearths more illegal mining within reservation
The Iwokrama International Centre said it has discovered more evidence of illegal activities within the reservation and reminded of the penalties as outlined in the Iwokrama Act.
The Centre said during planned monitoring and enforcement exercises in the week of the October 16, Iwokrama staffers along with Natural Resources Ministry Corp of Wardens and the Guyana Police Force witnessed more intrusions of illegal mining operations, not only in the Iwokrama protected forest, but also in the one-kilometre buffer zone on the other side of the Siparuni River.
In a statement, the Centre said that it believes the activities are being perpetrated by individuals taking advantage of the current restrictions and lockdown protocols established to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
It reminded that all mining, logging and commercial fishing are not allowed in the Iwokrama Forest unless the Centre gives express written permission for any of these activities to be undertaken.
The Centre said it spent enough time and resources on education and awareness with regard to illegal activities and as such, it intends to continue its zero-tolerance approach to all illegal activities especially gold mining. It added that with the recent support including the acquisition of the high-tech drone funded by ExxonMobil, monitoring and enforcement operations will be scaled up and the Natural Resources Minister and the Guyana Police Force have given their full support towards stamping out these illegal activities.
The monitoring and enforcement team has reported that there were several persons fishing in the buffer zone of the Iwokrama Forest, some claiming to be engaging in sport fishing, yet large seines were encountered within waterways in the Iwokrama protected area.
In this regard, Iwokrama sought to remind fisherfolks that the protected area buffer also applies to them and commercial fishing is prohibited in the buffer zone as well.
The Centre’s monitoring team together with the regulatory institutions in Guyana, including the Ministry of Natural Resources Corps of Wardens, Guyana Police Force, Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), Guyana Wildlife Management and Conservation Commission (GWMCC), Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continue to undertake regular monitoring and enforcement activities within the environs of the Iwokrama Forest.
Further, the Centre will also be rigidly enforcing the prescribed penalties under the Iwokrama Act and other laws of Guyana to any person found illegally operating in the Iwokrama Forest.
Meanwhile, the Centre is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of persons involved in illegal activities in the Iwokrama Forest. The Centre will also be following up on information it received on specific mining operators within the Iwokrama Forest. It promised to fully publicise all convictions.
In September 2019, a miner was arrested for illegal mining in the Iwokrama Forest and was placed before the courts. In May 2020, two “four-inch” dredges were found, although no one was apprehended.
Last week, the team noted even more significant damage and clear indications of preparations for further mining in the forest. The team also noted the burning of large trees, no doubt to aid in felling to enhance mining activity.
Due to the unexpected nature of the operation, the team found itself targeted by gunfire from miners who quickly scampered away into the forest. One arrest was made and the person is before the courts.
In the buffer zone, miners claimed as they often do, that they did not realise that they were in the one-km buffer zone and that they received approval to be there following a deal with a miner that had claimed the location. In this case, there was an excavator and small dredges working in the area. They were given two days to remove from the area as there is absolutely no mining allowed in the buffer zone.
The Centre also encouraged persons to report any illegal activities in the forest to Dr Raquel Thomas, Director of Resource Management at [email protected] (G2)