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Gold Panning in Belize: A Favorite Unwelcomed Activity for Guatemalans

More Guatemalan gold panners were found inside the Chiquibul forest on Monday. According to Friends for Conservation and Development, BDF soldiers, police officers and FCD Park Rangers were on patrol when they detected activity some six point five kilometers inside the Chiquibul Forest. The patrol unit knew gold panners were nearby because they observed murky water flowing downstream which led them to believe there was activity upstream. Upon approach, officers saw four Guatemalan men and a male minor in the area. They are 34 year old Samuel ChucKap, 33 year old Edgar Maas Cucul, 26 year old Carlos Teck Chub, 44 year old Esidro Garcia, and an eleven year old boy. Almost all of the detainees are from Monte Los Olivos- a bordering village in Guatemala. According to FCD, a plastic vial with what they believe is gold was found under the minor’s arm. Further checks revealed that approximately one pound of pulverized minerals, including gold mixed with small pebbles was wrapped inside a red T-shirt. The patrol also found four live rounds of twelve gauge ammunition in the camp. The men and the minor were taken to San Ignacio Police Station where the men are expected to be charged for illegal entry and mineral extraction without a permit. According to the Executive Director of FCD, gold panning has been identified as one of two main threats to the integrity of the Chiquibul National Park. As a result, FCD has taken several steps to counter this issue. The various interventions include, raising awareness about the present condition and impacts on the Chiquibul headwaters, Macro-invert research to establish the state of Chiquibul’s streams and river, strengthening coordination among key institutions, sensitizing Guatemalan counterparts about the challenges faced and conducting punctual monitoring and law enforcement actions in hotspot areas.