20 persons ranging from the age of 17 to 56 years old who were arrested last Sunday (May 28, 2017) for allegedly conducting illegal mining activities within the boundaries of the Kaieteur National Park were on Tuesday (May 30, 2017) released from custody.
The accused (names provided) were arrested by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) along with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) after 20 illegal mining camps were discovered through aerial reconnaissance.
According to the regulations made under the Mining Act 2005, Part XXVII Section 251 (1) (a), “No person shall conduct mining and quarrying activities in the following areas- (b) In specified nature reserves and parks where resource extraction is prohibited; (c) In buffer areas without express approval of the Commission and the notification of parties likely to be affected by the activity.”
Sunday’s raid saw five camps were searched and the persons present detained. It is reported that the dredge owners were not present during the time of the raid.
The Government in a subsequent statement outlined that of the five mines, three had already been issued cease orders by the GGMC in 2014 with reinforcement actions as recent as 2016. Despite this and two site visits by the GGMC, following the issuance of the cease orders, at least two of the three mines remained active.
Commissioner of the PAC, Ms. Denise Fraser, said “in some areas where miners have been previously moved, they have gone back. So there is a need for strong actions so that a message can be sent.”
The Government believed recent actions will serve as a “strong message” which needs to be sent to persons who repeatedly break the laws governing the country’s Protected Areas.
The accused, mainly from the Village of Chenapou, are scheduled to make their court appearances on July 18, 2017, at the Mahdia Magistrates Court.