Gold Board investigating claims of Venezuela gold smuggled into Guyana

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The Guyana Gold Board (GGB) is investigating reports that gold from Venezuela are being smuggled through Guyana, according to Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat. He said efforts are also being made to clamp down on illegal mining.

“It is a concern, we have seen the reports and the Guyana Gold Board is currently looking at the matter,” after several complaints were received from dealers, the Minister told the media at the sidelines of an event on Monday.

In response to questions, he said the investigation should be completed by the end of this month.

With a crippling economy due to US sanctions, Venezuela is looking to gold as an economic life raft. Reports are that the country’s limited but nonetheless lucrative gold-mining industry is beginning to grow at a noticeable rate.

The issue of Venezuelan gold being smuggled into Guyana was also raised in August of 2019 but no evidence was found to substantiate the claim.

Gold price is currently close to US$2,000 per ounce.

Guyana’s Natural Resources Minister said “as it is now, there is no substantial evidence to point to gold coming across the border from Venezuela” but there is “enough evidence” to show that Guyana gold is being smuggled into Venezuela and Brazil.

Minister Bharrat said there is no solid way of detecting the cross-border smuggling unless there are proper border control and control of mining activities.

As such, the gold board is looking at previous declarations and other information they would have on dealers.

The Minister said efforts are being made to clamp down on illegal mining but it is believed that illegal miners are being protected by the notorious Syndicato gang.

“As you are aware, there is the Syndicato gang operating in the Cuyuni area which we believe strongly that this gang is protecting illegal miners, both local and foreigners,” he said.

The Ministry has initiated, in collaboration with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) along with other agencies, an enforcement activity to destroy illegal mines and illegal airstrips.

“That activity unearthed the illegal mine in the New river triangle which was destroyed,” Bharrat said.

The Police, Army and the Mines Commission had unearthed a massive tunnel mining operation in the New River Basin some 50 miles east of Masakenari or Gunns Village in the South Rupununi in mid-October. Due to the location, the items found at the site were all destroyed.

Last month, two aircraft had were found at 9 Miles airstrip, Issano in the Middle Mazaruni River. One of the aircraft was found with a quantity of cocaine and a body.

Two pilots – a 38 year-old from Boa Vista and a 29-year-old from Temeremo, Venezuela – were arrested along with a 35-year-old Internet technician from Manaus, Brazil.

The Government has also given assistance to the Iwokrama Conservation Centre to tackle illegal mining and logging in the protected areas.

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