President David Granger ordered a covert raid of the Kaieteur National Park, Region 8, for illegal mining and the operation saw 21 persons arrested and flown to the city yesterday.
They remained in police custody up to last evening pending further investigations and likely charges.
Most of the persons arrested are residents from the Amerindian village of Chenapau.
“It was some surprise when we recently learnt that an aerial showed about 15 illegal operations within Kaieteur, not one, not two, but fifteen“, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman told Stabroek News yesterday.
Further, he added “This was brought to the attention of the President, who for all intent and purposes, as the Minister of Environ-ment, asked the Protected Areas Commission … that swift action be taken against it, hence it was done.”
Trotman noted that the Kaieteur National Park is a protected area and as such mining is strictly prohibited there. “The falls are the number one symbol of strength of environment and bio diversity and the image of mining around the park is inconsistent with us maintaining that strong symbol and image,” he said.
He pointed out that last year, after reports also of mining in the area, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission in collaboration with the police mounted an operation. The treacherous terrain was the cause of one of the police constables losing his life during the exercise.
Nonetheless, the party carried through with the operation and were able to seize a number of dredges that were mining illegally in the area.
The minister informed that the GGMC and his office levied what they felt were punitive fines on the illegal dredge owners and with the stricture that they would not return to the area.
Their punishment seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as reports resurfaced of more persons mining illegally in the protected zone.
But although planned secret operations were carried out, the miners seemed to always be one step ahead of the authorities and when they reached proposed raid destinations the dredges had been moved.
Trotman said it was for this reason that the President’s decision was made “with some degree of secrecy” and was initiated to show government’s strong objection to illegal mining.
“What we have found in the past is that before we arrive, the word goes up through the internet and phone… that people are coming and by time we get there the dredges are pulled back into legal waters,” he stated.
Trotman said that details of the operations would come from the Ministry of the Presidency.