Illegal miners open fire on Iwokrama forest protection team

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A team from the Iwokrama International Centre for rainforest conservation was met with open fire a week ago when the team came upon an illegal mining activity in the Iwokrama protected forest at the heart of Guyana.

Iwokrama in a statement said one person in the matter was arrested and is before the court. Iwokrama further noted that any illegal activities conducted within the Iwokrama Reservation would be subject to the application of the law inclusive of penalties outlined in the Iwokrama Act.

The Centre said that as part of a planned programme of monitoring and enforcement, Iwokrama staffers along with full support from the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Corp of Wardens and the Guyana Police Force continue to eradicate illegal mining operations not only in the Iwokrama protected forest, but also in the one kilometer buffer zone on the other side of the Siparuni River.

Mining Pit in the Iwokrama Forest (Iwokrama International Centre Photo)

These activities, Iwokrama believes, are being perpetuated by individuals taking advantage of the current restrictions and lockdown protocols established to combat the COVID – 19 virus.

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.

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 claim at the location.

In this case, there was an excavator and small dredges working the area.

Iwokrama management said it will continue its zero-tolerance approach to these activities, especially gold mining and other illegal activities.

Mining operation with escavator buffer Zone Iwokrama Forest (Iwokrama International Centre Photo)

The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) in a statement said it condemns in the strongest terms the operations of illegal miners in the Iwokrama area and called on the relevant authorities to root out these illegal miners.

“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 stated.

The Association in a statement 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.

“Everyone must respect the protected areas of Guyana and the restricted zones,” the GGDMA stated, adding that it 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.
“We call on all miners to respect the mining regulations in place and to work with the authorities to help improve the industry. Illegal mining must end. Protected areas must be respected,” GGDMA stated.

The Iwokrama team also noted 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, even after being told by some of these fisherfolk that they had placed no seines in the area.

In this regard, Iwokrama reminded fisherfolk that the protected area buffer also applies to them and commercial fishing is prohibited in the bufferzone 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(s) 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(s) 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. Any convictions will be fully publicized.

For further information on the management of the Iwokrama Forest and to report any illegal activities in the forest, please contact ONLY Dr Raquel Thomas, Director Resource Management on [email protected] More information on the Centre’s work is available on www.iwokrama.org , www.iwokramariverlodge.com and www.iwokramacanopywalkway.com

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