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Jul 26, 2012

Illegal gold mining ring is suspected to involve over 300 Guatemalans

Belize’s natural resources are under sustained threat. In the Chiquibul, incursions by Guatemalan nationals to illegally log, extract xate and poach for exotic birds are escalating.  There is now news that about three hundred Guatemalans are panning for gold.  It takes a bit less work than logging, and it fetches more on the market, so gold mining has become a lucrative business for the Guatemalans. Inside the Chiquibul Forest, the joint enforcement unit was out on a regular patrol when they came upon a large group panning for gold. News Five’s Andrea Polanco takes a closer look at the work of these illegal gold panners.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Just two weeks ago, this group of about thirty men, all Guatemalan national, was discovered panning for Gold in the Ceibo Chico. The number of illegal gold panners inside the Chiquibul Forest is around three hundred. The booming business of gold mining, so much so, that they have started to construct make-shift tents that may house even families.


Raphael Manzanero

Raphael Manzanero, Executive Director, F.C.D.

“We found out that these groups are already more organized. They are covering large swathes of the streams, probably about three kilometers in terms of an extension of an area in several groups. What we have also found out is that they are coming from several communities and it seems that each community has their own spots from which they operate from.”


Andrea Polanco

“How deep inside Belize are they?”


Raphael Manzanero

“This is actually found seven point five kilometers inside Belize and the closest community from there in terms of the Guatemalan side is Monte de los Olivos.”


It is an illegal gold panning ring. The gold, when sold over in Guatemala, would go for rock bottom prices.


Raphael Manzanero

“Well, just like any other traditional illegal activity; there are the key individuals who are involved and they use the local labourers to go in and do the dirty work. So in this case, we can ascertain there are other people involved who might have the money; they are sending these guys out and they are the same ones who purchase the gold and then there are the middle merchants who sell it to somebody.”


Derric Chan, Park Manager, F.C.D.

“They will say who their bosses are and where they sell their products and how much they get paid for it. They get paid a misery, you know ten or three cents for a xate leaf; seventy dollars for a gram of gold when it’s 1800, so they do provide that information.”



Meet forty-two year old Alejandro Ack; he left his village of Dolores in Guatemala to illegally pan for gold in Belize. He is with his sixteen year old nephew.


Joint Forces Unit

“First time you’re coming here?”


Alejandro Ack

“Yes, first time.”


Joint Forces Unit

Alejandro Ack

“Are you aware that you’re inside Belize?”


Alejandro Ack

“Yes we do.”


Joint Forces Unit

“Do you know you are committing a crime here?”


Alejandro Ack



Joint Forces Unit:

“And this is your nephew?”


Alejandro Ack

“As well.”


Derric Chan

Park Manager, Derric Chan, knows that the encounters with these groups can be risky.


Derric Chan

“The gold panners, we know they have weapons. We have not arrested yet a gold panner because we want to do this in a subtle manner; we want to address it and tell people that this is illegal. It was a very big crowd; it was incredible, you know. The one particular case where they were asked to leave is the gold panners, but that’s not the way we operate; we will arrest them. In this case, they did abandon the site. We don’t know where they went but we have not seen the amount of people that were there that day but we have to continue patrolling because the Chiquibul is large and people can move from one place to another; the Chiquibul is two times the size of Barbados, so there’s where to go.”


The process of panning for gold is perhaps way easier than you think. These illegal Guatemalan gold panners use basic tools to extract this precious mineral from Belize.


Raphael Manzanero

“Gold panning in the area of Chiquibul is something that it might not require any high-tech or heavy machinery and infrastructure and so what we are finding out, the activities being done by the Guatemalans, they’re using house hold items; you can use a stick, a bow or if you have a little bit more like a container with a mesh, it helps you to operate a much more easier and more effectively.”


But the damage to the natural habitat is not as simple; the scale of destruction seems almost irreparable.


Raphael Manzanero

“Particularly it really means moving the materials; scooping the stones; the pebbles and that is really the major problem that we are seeing. As I noted earlier, the three kilometers of coverage that we have already documented in terms of activities; all of that area is already completed destroyed.”


Andrea Polanco

Alright, when you say destroyed; describe for us what exactly we’d see if we’d go in there?”


Raphael Manzanero

“It means that the movement of the streams, water and all of that has even been diverted. It means that all the stones have been completely moved out of place because you see, as you’re searching for gold, you have to move the big stone then go to the pebbles and scoop them out from the area and as a result the trees are dropping on the streams and so you will see that the impacts, the environmental impacts is really huge. How long will this thing take to restore itself again, it won’t be able to restore itself as fully, it will take hundreds of years for this thing to return if anything.”


In the last fifteen years, millions of dollars in natural resources were illegally taken out of Belize by Guatemalan peasants; primarily through xate and timber; studies are yet to show how much in gold is being trickled out across the border; one thing is for sure, illegal gold mining is big business inside the Chiquibul.


Raphael Manzanero

“For the gold, that is another exercise that we will have to do. I think we might have some ideas but we will have to go back again if we would want to bring out the numbers as specific and as authentic, we would have to do a rigorous analysis in terms of looking at that value. What we are sure of is that the extraction of the gold is certainly of a higher value and is able to bring in a higher income to those people; more than what was xate in its days and more than what it has been in illegal logging.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


In Friday night’s newscast we’ll tell you about the FCD’s outlook on these growing Guatemalan incursions on Belizean territory.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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16 Responses for “Illegal gold mining ring is suspected to involve over 300 Guatemalans”

  1. Storm says:

    BDF needs the equipment to carry out low-and-slow aerial patrols, photograph the criminal activity, and to land forces to capture the criminals.

    When a gold rush gets started it can turn a place upside down quickly.

  2. Bear says:

    If there is gold there, why not let Belizeans exploit it, under supervision, license, and tax from the government? It is something that warrants study to see if it is worthwhile and to make sure the process will not cause serious permanent damage to the Chiquibul. Until then, GOB needs to find a way to close the door and stop mining by anyone, Belizean or foreign invader.

  3. Rod says:

    I say mine the whole border do it 5 miles into our border so that when they gt blown up everyone will know they were in our border stealing our natural resources ,the only problem is their is no leader in the country so while our natural resources are being stolen we have no leader to direct our troops .we need a real leader in this country someone who will take on all comers and someone who will do whatever it takes to protect Belize and its people . So let’s put it to a vote channel 5. Who thinks we should mine our borders I vote yes

  4. Gary says:

    I believe the Governments had known about the gold being in the area from a long time ago since they have a registered company doing it out there…but like someone asked why didn’t Belizeans know about this and why weren’t we given the opportunity to go and extract this gold so all this money could have been circulating right here in our country amongst our people

  5. enigma says:

    wonderful !!!!!! let them come in. let the OAS escort them. take everything they want and we don’t say a dam. But wait can any belizean go to guatemala and do the same? Hell no!!!!!!!, they will instantly kill us.Belizean need to wake up.

  6. Unlce Benji says:

    Dumb @$$ peasants, will always be dumb @$$ peasants. The BDF can arrest, abuse and mistreat these peasants, but they will be back, again and again. Belizean borders need to be clearly defined, and perpetrators (man, woman or child ) need to be @$$ whipped and pay a monetary fine.

    Lack of money is the root of all evil, and if Belizeans cannot guard their gold mines, then I support the Guat invasion of these mines. These ignorant peasants shoud not be held accountable for an incompetent army that cannot defend its borders.

  7. Earl Grey says:

    ONE more example of how BLESSED our little NATION of BELIZE is…



  8. ang says:

    That this is a good time for Belizean media to exaggerate the news to make us look like the victims which is reality would give good ole oas n guats a taste a their own medicine complain to proper authorities heck sue them now gather evidence by dealing with them incognito n expose it to bbc n complain to the UN we need the compensation cos after ccj deal out this referendim ruling n england indemnifies both countries all the darned monies will go towards building the said freeway or higheay across belize to allow guats to transport themselves thru our land to the atlantic ocean. The time to cry out is now more trouble is coming listen rt now we got no monies to patrol our borders when that highway is built u will need that monies to patrol the border even more plus that highway so sue the guats them now or stand firm n both opposition n govt come together and make a strong case of complaint to the oas no settle fu just confidrnce building measures ask fu monies fu patrol n post signs in the forest to educate the farmers who play stupid possum from the othet side n use that monies on on our side fu patrol n on their u insist they make known to their people they can be imprisoned for incursions to our side why u think they dont fo it so much to the mexicans?

  9. stopthebs says:

    well it’s a known fact that these Guatemalan think Belize is theirs, so why not go in there and take their gold ,the government is allowing it, because they got no b@@ls to in there and stop it , these Leaders could steal our money but they can’t protect us from foreign invaders ( ie Guatemala ) these mayans think they own the place. now that the found gold now they will never leave . BE PREPARE BELIZEAN THE GUATS ARE COMING .thank your BRAIN DEAD LEADERS……God BLESS ……

  10. Tim says:

    once again the guatemalans get the upper hand and where is the OAS now?? WE have been repeatedly raped by them and I think we can say that Belize feeds alot of families in Guatemala so we take care of their economy as well! We should start settling by our borders and start getting our resources for ourselves! WHy them and not us when it is rightfully ours! Guatemala take care of your own people!

  11. Dirty sugar!!!! says:

    The OAS is like a wicked stepmother — she knows your being abused but because she does not want to offend the abusers (Guatemala)— she tries to cover everything so that the abuser looks good in public!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Dirty sugar!!!! says:

    It must be noted that majority of the members of the OAS are Spanish speaking countries — so we must ask ourselves — Do they realy have our best interest at heart?? Think about it Belize!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. big daddy says:

    I cannot believe Belize has black gold and 75% of the entire country live in poverty . Wake Barrow let that head shine and let the belizean get piece of that gold, but I donot mean the rich dogs around your table . LIKE CHENDO ,BURNS, VEGA , ETC..ETC..Let a group belizean to work the Land ,sorry no American or the Minister’s Family are allow to get the gold . We need gross root people , like the person in O/walk that his house fell on his kids. Let the belizean live their dream, we have gold and oil but we are still begging for food to the world. I am proud to be a BELIZEAN.

  14. Seletar says:

    Dirty sugar, you are right. OAS is dominated by Spanish speaking countries, and they have a lot of prejudice against English speakers, like we come from different and enemy worlds.

    i’m thinking about it, and I really don’t see a positive balance in belonging to OAS any more.

  15. Josephino Estroberto Pesomedio says:


  16. Roberto Vidal says:

    This is what you need to do! Since the Belizean government is having qualms about intervening in this situation, then you should arm yourselves and go to where this Guatemalans are panning for gold. Surround them and keep them panning and when you are satisfied with the amount each has collected, confiscate the gold and then kick the out the door!

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