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Jul 24, 2012

Guatemalans caught illegally panning for gold in Chiquibul

It has come to light that Guatemalan nationals have advanced deep inside the Chiquibul National Park, panning for gold.  Boiton Minerals is the company that has a license to conduct mining of gold in the area of Ceibo Chico, which is located at the extreme southern flank of the forest.  In that area, Friends for Conservation and Development has discovered and recorded a systematic ring of Guatemalans carrying out the gold panning. While the figures for this illegal extraction of precious mineral are yet to be determined; the unmonitored presence of the Guatemalans is costing Belize, primarily with respect to the damage on the ecosystem that in some areas may even be considered irreparable. F.C.D., one of the co-managers of this protected site, has been conducting studies since late 2011 and from all accounts, the pressures are increasing in the area. The F.C.D. reports that there are entire families from communities like Nueva Armenia and Poptun who are operating illegally on Belizean soil. Executive Director of F.C.D., Rafael Manzanero, says that the matter is a serious one that must be dealt with expeditiously.

 

Rafael Manzanero

Via Phone: Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D.

“The occurrence is in the area of Ceibo Chico that is located around seven or so kilometers within Belize. Now, in terms of the major problems of course is that these are found right on the main headwaters of the Ceibo Chico and the Chiquibul River so the impact that we can see there is really high impact given the amount of stones, debris and trees and the creeks already diverted at the hands of these illegal gold panners in that area. We actually started to document these around the months of October of last year; at that particular time it was just a couple of people that were already observed and had already been reported as conducting illegal gold panning in that particular area. As you can see in that report there has been a company operating there, legally of course under the purview and the monitoring systems of several of the agencies here in Belize; so we have gone into that area even at the time when we were conducting our monitoring programs and we had already received reports of people operating in that zone as early as October of last year.  In November and around December some people were already found with some equipment for gold panning; as a matter of fact, in December one of the persons were captured in the area who apparently was conducting gold panning. The person was later released at the Western Border. We initially reported around one hundred and fifty people and now we can say that there are around three hundred Guatemalans operating in that particular zone.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Would you say that they are operating in an organized fashion?”

 

Rafael Manzanero

“They are actually operating in a systematic level, meaning that they already have some of the tools; in fact they had robbed some of the pans from the company and so they have the sieves. They are much more organized and so you find them now in complete families in the areas that have been dammed and there are areas that they have sectioned like little villages. They are becoming more organized and systematic in the extraction of this gold. They operate at day and night and this thing is not stopping; it is becoming a major problem for us and we recognize that the Guatemalans already have a strong hold in the area.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Have you talked with any of the Guatemalans operating in the forest; have they said that they aren’t aware that they are on Belizean territory?”

 

Rafael Manzanero

“They have been interviewed and know for certain that the mountains where they are operating is found in Belizean territory; they are aware that it is under a protective status and so they clearly know that they are conducting an illegal activity within Belizean territory.”

 

A few years ago, the F.C.D. established a joint forces unit comprising of six B.D.F. soldiers, two F.C.D. rangers and a police officer to man the Chiquibul. While they have seen a number of small successes, including arrests that led to jail time, the unit is no match for the illegal Guatemalans operating in the forest. Less than three weeks ago, the F.C.D. established the Ceibo Chico Conservation Post and the South Chiquibul Joint Enforcement Unit was inaugurated with the aim of putting into effect a unit to monitor and enforce the protection in South Chiquibul. While these measures may help to curb the illegal incursions, Manzanero says that it will take a concerted effort that requires the input of all parties involved; most importantly, more boots are needed on the ground.

 

Rafael Manzanero

“We have actually spelled out a set of recommendations, one is for the Government to be able to conduct or be able to inform Guatemalan counterparts about the seriousness of this problem. In advance time it should be informed because once the enforcement unit starts to really pull out people from there I know for certain that the Guatemalan Government will want to know why is this being done when I think in the first place, Belize needs to be informed about the magnitude of the problem. Secondly, I think that we need to have synchronized efforts with the regulatory agencies here in Belize, particularly with Mines and Petroleum because if someone is detained, that particular Ministry or Department will need to levy the fine or state the offense because we, as F.C.D., do not have the purview of putting that particular offense as it relates to extraction of a mineral. Thirdly, is to put in a strong deterrence which really means more man power. We are recommending full engagement in terms of having enforcement units down there as it relates to do a sweep or clean up of this area.”

 

Over the last fifteen years, the increasing presence of Guatemalans in Belize has been recorded by the F.C.D.; they have been conducting illegal logging and extracting xate which are estimated at a loss of more than a million Belize dollars. The pressures on this fragile part of Belize have also impacted the wildlife, particularly the Scarlet Macaws which are being poached on an almost daily basis.

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11 Responses for “Guatemalans caught illegally panning for gold in Chiquibul”

  1. Storm says:

    How long has it gone on? How much has been STOLEN from the Jewel?

    I fear that as word gets out that there is gold to be found in the ground, we will have a greater invasion from the whole region — we better prepare to stop it, with force if need be.

  2. Jose Almeindelsu says:

    What about the dozens of Guatemalans running taxi in the Cayo district area?
    They know NOTHING about traffic rules or laws, no entry is their way of life here in Belize because they shout “Belice es nuestro”. They come in a bit more legal because they first bribe the work permit then go buy their driving license, so at check point they are so called legal.
    Once you see them wearing a cap, they are chapines, they cannot live without a cap.
    99.999% of the taxi fares are done by ILLEGAL GUATEMALANS running for $2.00 and $1.00 to go all the way to the Hospital.Of course the Benque Viejo town board thanks the San Ignacio town board for the favor to get their VOTERS into job !!!
    Again they are more legal that the ones at Chiquibul , or are they?
    SHAME , SHAME , WHAT HAS BEEN WITH MY COUNTRY, DOWN THE DRAIN !!!
    WE ARE TRAMPLED UPON BY HALA BEJUKOS, THEY CANNOT EVEN SPEAK A WORD IN ENGLISH, BUT THEY ARE TAXI OPERATORS, THANKS SAN IGNACIO TOWN BOARD, BELICE ES NUESTRO!!!!
    The only problem is that when they are really needed at week ends by their $2.00 customers they are at the champon drinking and having a fine time.

  3. Rod says:

    The Guatemalans are saying that their is no leader in the country so why not anything they want.

  4. Elgin Martinez says:

    It’s so ironic how the GOB is crying about not having money,lock of jobs and yet the Guatemalans are able to create their own jobs using Belize’s natural resources.

  5. BMNJ says:

    If it wasn’t for this news I wouldn’t have known that Belize has gold. Who owns Boiton Minerals? What are the incentives this company is getting from the GOB? Are they exporting gold? Are they paying taxes?
    Maybe there is another company somewhere in Belize right now mining diamond or silver. Who knows? Maybe again from the Guatemalans.

  6. Chris says:

    The work of FCD is essential in the long term conservation of this important forest and they should be congratulated on the excellent work they do in very difficult circumstances. Well done guys

  7. me says:

    NO wonder the mercury on our rivers , long time i thought of that, but until now we found out where they were.

  8. Ideas?? says:

    BMNJ. The One who is the Head of State, Owns Belize. Elizabeth. Ironic hmmm,
    Belize is spelt with every letter in her name. Ho. Didn’t her grandson visit Xunantunich on
    here Jubilee celebration showing you people who is the maiden of the rock. No wonder
    they make slaves out of you people.

  9. MACAL RIVERA says:

    WHY DO WE ALWAYS HAVE TO STOOP DOWN TO THESE BLOODY GUATES, WHY THEY HAVE TO ALWAYS INTIMIDATE US, BELIZE IS OUR COUNTRY, THESE ILLEGAL SO CALLED ALIENS SHOULD IN IN JAIL, AND DONE!!!!!
    BUT NO, THEY HAVE TO HAVE TALKS HERE TALKS THERE AND BS WALKS,
    MADA!@#$ I AM TIRED AND FED UP OF THESE GUATES COMING INTO OUR COUNTRY AN DO AS THEY FEEL.
    WHY DON’T GOVERNMENT HIRE ALL THOSE GANG MEMBER AND PLACE THEM AT OUR BORDER?? THEN YOU WILL SEE WHO THESE BLOODY GUATES HAVE TO RESPECT, THESE GANG BWAYS NO NEED WEAPON THEY ALREADY HAVE IT.

  10. Vuk says:

    I and MANY others have been saying that for years, Macal. Instead of killing their own people, they should be on the borders protecting Belize from the Guats…

  11. PM says:

    Belize should demand the foreign minister of guatemalans to look after their people that live along the border and to discourage guatemalans from illegally entering Belize and taking our natural resources.

    If a illegal guatemala gets injured or shot, well too bad for them, they are not in there country.

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