The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has concluded its Joint Services Exercise, OPERATION MIDAS this week, which unearthed 26 dredges in the Kaieteur National Park.
According to a statement from the GDF, other pieces of mining equipment and environmental pollutants such as Mercury, Waste Oil and Silicone, which were being used indiscriminately by the illegal miners, were also found at the location.
During the two-week operation, eight camps were discovered, six of which were active. According to the findings reported by the Joint Services, the equivalent of two and a half barrels of fuel and a diving suit was found.
The Force said it is committed to supporting the efforts of the Protected Areas Commission and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to rid the park of illegal mining which contributes to environmental degradation.
As such, it made several recommendations to the Protected Areas Commission (PAC). Among the recommendations are “the erection of billboards to sensitise the public and visitors on the delineation of the Park and prohibited conduct; improved monitoring of all aircraft landing at the location and the scrutiny of any accompanying cargo; the prosecution of all registered dredge owners whose equipment were seized by GGMC, the rehabilitation of all waterways that were deliberately diverted by the illegal miners and the temporary suspension of mining licences for those registered engine owners.”
The PAC said it is examining the recommendations made by the Joint Services team.
Commissioner of the Protected Areas Commission (PAC), Ms. Denise Fraser said that the Commission will be upping its monitoring activities in the area and will work to establish a plan to ensure that the recommendations, which fall within its remit, are put into full effect.
As a result of the operation, which included foot patrols and aerial surveillance throughout the Park, illegal mining activity has been brought to an end with equipment seized and mining camp areas secured.
20 persons were arrested on Sunday, May 28, 2017, for mining within the Kaieteur National Park and brought to Georgetown for questioning. Among the 20 persons were residents of the Amerindian Village of Chenapau. However, no dredge owners were included.
The Ministry of Natural Resources subsequently decided not to prosecute the charges against them following a meeting with Toshao, Mr. Edward McGarrell, and some members of the community of Chenapau in Region 8, Potaro-Siparuni, together with representatives of the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) and the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA).