The looting, desecration and annexation of the Chiquibul Forest in Belize, Central America

by  Tony Rath

Throughout history, conquerers have often celebrated their victory over the vanquished by urinating on a deceased enemy that minutes before was trying to kill them. Illegal Guatemalan gold miners invading the Chiquibul Forest of Belize have taken this insult to another level. They extract gold bearing quartz rock with impunity, while pissing and defecating into the very water that approximately 50% of Belizeans drink.

Belize Water Services Limited pipes this water to your homes; Belizean breweries mix this water in the beer you drink; bottled water companies package and sell liters of this water to you by the thousands. Granted, all this water is first purified before you drink it, but if you saw someone pee and shit in a cup, then wash that cup and serve you a drink in it, how would you feel?

Recently I accompanied rangers from Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD), the non-governmental organization tasked with managing the Chiquibul Forest, into one of the most remote areas of this protected area to document what I thought was small scale gold mining, the type where a couple of poor villagers in ragged clothes crouch by a stream swirling water and gravel in a pan.

What we observed was way beyond anything I imagined. The potential environmental impacts of Guatemalan illegal gold mining in the Ceibo Chico region of the Chiquibul far surpasses the impacts of illegal xate harvesting, illegal logging, wildlife poaching and agricultural encroachments  combined. This story raises troubling questions about where we are as a people and what we value as a nation.

Click here to read the rest of the excellent article and see LOTS more amazing photos