Authorities probe illegal gold mining, smuggling
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Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat
Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat

MINISTER of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat, said that there is evidence to support that Guyana’s gold, which may have been illegally mined, is being smuggled to neighbouring countries.

During an interview with members of the media on Monday, the Minister related that concerns have been raised about the mixing of gold smuggled from Venezuela with Guyana’s gold.

“As it is now, there is no substantial evidence to point to gold coming across the border from Venezuela. If you ask me, there is enough evidence to support the otherwise- that Guyana’s gold is leaving our borders and going to Brazil and Venezuela,” he said.

There are also concerns that the gold may have been obtained through illegal mining activities conducted by both foreign and local individuals. Minister Bharrat acknowledged that there is no “solid way” of differentiating between Guyana and Venezuela’s gold.

Several local agencies, including the Guyana Gold Board, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Gold & Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) are investigating the matter. The Gold Board, in particular, is reviewing previous declarations and other information they have on dealers.

At the end of 2019, Guyana’s gold declarations were recorded at 634,906 ounces compared to the 616, 223 ounces declared in 2018.

Minister Bharrat also highlighted that illegal mining and logging were detected in the Iwokrama Conservation, one of Guyana’s protected areas. So far, he said that one person was charged for illegal mining there.

According to him, numerous cases of illegal mining and illegal logging were discovered upon his assuming office. Though efforts have been geared at clamping down on these activities, Guyana’s porous borders and large landmass are challenges to be surmounted.

Recently, the cost of gold has climbed to over US$1,900 per ounce. While this presents great opportunities for local miners, it also breeds ‘desperation’ in the form of illegal mining operations, which, in some cases, are being protected by the notorious Venezuelan gang, ‘Syndicato’.

There have been multiple reports in recent times that the gang has been operating within the border regions and have been terrorising Guyanese citizens. Minister Bharrat said that he believes this gang has been protecting some of the illegal miners.

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