FCD Wants Government to Take Action to Stop Gold Panning in the Chiquibul

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Updated: April 25, 2017

In the recent weeks we have reported on several Guatemalans caught in the Chiquibul Forest gold panning. Friends for Conservation and Development, FCD, which has taken up the challenging task of looking over the Chiquibul Forest says that gold panning is an incessant problem and the first most impactful threat in the Chiquibul landscape today. This is an area where the highest mountain ridge of Belize is found, and more importantly where the headwater of the Chiquibul River is located. FCD’s concern has always been the impacts that such activity may have on the water resources. The first communities who receive the water resources are those located across in Guatemala such as Nueva Armenia, Puertas del Cielo Chiquibul, and San Jose Las Flores. It eventually joins with the Mopan River in Peten at Los Encuentros and then finds its way to Melchor de Mencos, Benque Viejo, downstream to Belize City and the Caribbean Sea. In fact, roughly 100,000 Guatemalans live in the Chiquibul and Mopan watershed and approximately 43% of the Belizean population depends on these water resources. (VO 2 STARTS) According to FCD, gold panning by Guatemalans was not our concern, until mid-2011; when FCD started documenting and observing Guatemalan nationals starting to conduct gold panning in south Chiquibul. These individuals were using plates and pans brought by them or utensils stolen from the nearby mineral exploration licensee. It is highly suspected that Guatemalans learnt of the gold deposits in the Ceibo Chico area from other Guatemalan workers who were hired by Boiton Minerals. FCD also came across three Belizeans that possessed a Non-Exclusive Prospecting Licence in Mal Pago Creek, who had hired xateros to help pan for gold in that creek using a small pump. The data recovered showed the organized manner that people were operating inside Belize up to 6 to 8 kilometers. The FCD estimates there would be some other 15 organized groups along the Ceibo Chico drainage system totaling some 300 illegal gold panners. The question is how to control this activity now. FCD is recommending for the Government of Belize to make a formal report to the Guatemalan government about this major problem, bring together all pertinent regulatory agencies in order to synchronize law enforcement efforts and resources required and to immediately put a credible deterrence force on the ground to contain the escalation.