Two Guatemalan nationals have been arrested and charged for illegal entry into Belize and also for illegally operating inside a protected area without the use of a permit after they were discovered gold panning in Ceibo Grande Creek located south of the Chiquibul National Park and approximately nine kilometers away from the western border. The discovery was made by a joint unit patrol which was conducted on Friday by police officers, members of the Belize Defense Force and also with assistance from Friends for Conservation and Development rangers.
Both individuals, identified as Anibal Quiix Cucul of Monte Los Olivos, Peten and Jose Amilcar Garcia Morales of Huite, Zacapa, Guatemala were escorted to the San Ignacio Police Station where the charges were levied against each of them. During interrogation, Anibal confessed that prior to being caught he had illegally entered into the Chiquibul area approximately seven times to pan for gold. This time he was caught with one container which contained gold nuggets. Anibal also told police that upon his last visit to the area, he had collected close to 2.5 grams of gold of which he made a profit of 500 quetzales equivalent to about one hundred fifty Belize Dollars.
Despite numerous community programs established at Monte Los Olivos aimed at decreasing intrusions into Belize, no improvement has been observed and according to reports, the community remains the key community that purchases gold from gold panners, and it is believed that roughly 100 persons from this community in particular as well as other villages including Los Limones and Brisas de Chiquibul are actively extracting gold.
Since the year 2012 the FCD has reported numerous cases of heavy sedimentation observed in streams found on the upper limits of the Maya Mountain Main Divide where gold panning continues to occur. This is a major concern as close to 100,000 Guatemalans living in specific areas where the water from the Chiquibul Forest flows, highly depend on it as a source. These communities along with other located further down run the risk of receiving polluted waters due to the heavy impacts occurring on the Main Divide.
It is yet to be determined if the Mining Unit will charge both Anibal and Garcia for extracting minerals without a permit.
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