Protected areas must be respected – GGDMA

Illegal mining at Iwokrama

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) had condemned the operations of miners in the Iwokrama protected area, calling on the relevant authorities to root out these illegal operations.

An Illegal mining operation found within the protected Iwokrama rainforest

These sentiments were shared in light of the Iwokrama International Centre announcing the discovery of illegal activities within the reservation.
On Saturday, GGDMA voiced, “No effort must be spared, and all resources of the enforcement agencies must be brought to bear against those who encroach and disturb areas that are protected, restricted and outside of the mining zone.”
The GGDMA said it supports the rights of miners and will continue to advocate for miners’ rights but it will not tolerate, support, or encourage illegal mining. For this, work will continue in collaboration with the relevant authorities to eradicate these unlawful acts.
“Everyone must respect the protected areas of Guyana and the restricted zones. The Association will continue to work with the mining authorities to help stem the scourge of illegal mining which not only deprives the country of revenue but also encourages some of the worst mining practices and illegal activities.”
Miners were also urged to respect the mining regulations in place and to work with the authorities to help improve the industry.
The Centre had informed that during planned monitoring and enforcement exercises in the week of 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.
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.
A reward is being offered 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. (G12)