Guatemalans Sell Chiquibul Gold For $70/Gramme

First they came for Xate, then timber and now it's gold. That's what we showed you on the news last night as 20 Guatemalans were found earlier this month almost five miles into Belizean territory in Southern Chiquibul panning for gold in the Ceibo Chico Creek. Tonight we revisit that story - and examine how difficult it will be to stop what is the new plunder in the Chiquibul:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
This is what panning for gold looks like - he tells the BDF he's been here for three days. This man has been here for two days, it's his first time - he says he knows the area is within Belize.

This man tells the camera that they pay $250.00 Quezales per gramme - that's 69 Belize dollars.

The soldier warns them that they don't want to see them here again, and they should pass the word on to all the other gold panners along the Ceibo Chico.

It's not much, but it's the best that can be done - because driving all of them back to Guatemala will be complex:

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director - FCD
"Given that we were not really prepared with the resources in terms of taking out people from that remote area - in that particular instance the people were just inform to move out from the area and to pass the information to their other friends in that particular zone to abandon that particular area. However that is one of the first measures that we could have thought about."

"Certainly I am not confident that that is going to work fully but at least what we know is that we have already informed them - we already advise them that this is a national park and this is within the country of Belize. In fact the people understand that this is already inside of Belize's territory and so the other measures now that will be coming is to fully detain them and bring them out. But at that particular we will require equipment and man power to deal with this particular issue."

FCD estimates that there area as many as 300 Guatemalan Gold Panners along the Ceibo Chico:

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director - FCD
"The number of people involved and because its gold then we have to be very careful on how to address this matter. I believe that the Guatemalan government should be informed through a diplomatic note or whatever because the worse scenario that can happen is that we would be considered as ejecting people from there illegally whilst we have all the right and the authority as law enforcement agencies to get involved in this major problem occurring down south."

It is an alarming problem and a growing one - but with a massive effort, it can be brought under controls before it gets more out of control:

Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director - FCD
"How soon we can get the enforcement is of course this is something that we expect the government to work on this as soon as possible. In reality to answer your question if we were to get the man power as soon as tomorrow then that particular activity of extraction of people can occur."

CEIBO CHICO is at the extreme southern flank of the Chiquibul forest, a remote area - which takes days of rugged hiking to reach from the Belize side.

According to an FCD release, the Ceibo Chico is source of water for the well-known Chiquibul River which then joins with the Mopan River in Peten and drains eventually on the Belize Barrier Reef, but first passing through many villages, towns and cities in both Guatemala and Belize including Melchor, Benque and Belize City.

Channel 7