Illegal mining threatens Gishwati-Mukura National Park | The new times

Districts bordering Gishwati-Mukura National Park said new measures were being strengthened to crack down on illegal mining activities that threaten the protected forest.

The new crackdown follows different cases that are being recorded, officials said.

Gishwati-Mukura National Park was recently designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve after being restored at a cost of $9.5 million since 2014 and handed over in 2020 for tourist activities.

The park is made up of two distinct forests – the larger Gishwati and the smaller Mukura, forming a total of 34 square kilometers plus a buffer zone.

It has been restored after being nearly depleted largely due to resettlement, ranching and illegal mining in the mineral-rich forest.

Despite the restoration, the districts said illegal mining activities still posed a threat to the reserve which was home to a group of 20 chimpanzees that cohabited with golden, host and blue monkeys, 395 species of birds and 492 native plant species.

A golden monkey at Gishwati-Mukura Forest National Park. The reserve is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees that rub shoulders with golden monkeys, l’hoest’s and blue monkeys, 395 species of birds and 492 native planes. Photo:

“In our district, we have also experienced illegal mining activities. We are working with the police, the investigation office, local leaders and residents to draw up a list of all those suspected of facing a new crackdown,” said Etienne Havugimana, vice-mayor in charge of economic development for the district. from Rutsiro to the New Times. Tuesday August 9th.

He said they are holding meetings with local leaders, especially village and Isibo (lower administrative unit) leaders, noting that “they have the most information about the people involved in the ‘illegal mining that threatens Gishwati-Mukura National Park’.

He added that a list of companies suspected of employing local people in illegal mining activities is also being prepared.

“Illegal mining was practiced in the buffer zones of the park, in the park, rivers and others. Some were detained and others were sent to transit centers,” he said, without disclosing the number of suspects on the list.

Evariste Bazingerero, a resident of Gashubi cell, Ngororero district, said residents have been supported to run different income projects such as pig farming, among others, as alternatives to seeking income from poaching activities in Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

However, he said there are those who are employed in illegal mining which threatens the forest.

“Before the start of the forest restoration project, many locals could enter the forest for stakes, mining and poaching,” he said.

Seven people arrested

Seven people have been arrested in Ngororero district after they were found illegally mining wolfram in Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

They were arrested during an operation carried out by the Rwanda National Police in the park near Gatomvu village, Mugarura cell, Muhanda sector.

Police Superintendent (SP) Bonaventure Twizere Karekezi, police spokesperson for the western region, said the illegal mining activities were reported by local residents.

“After the police were informed by local residents of Gatomvu village of illegal mining, an operation was carried out and the suspects were caught in the act with traditional mineral extraction tools. They had already extracted 4 kg of wolfram,” he said.

The suspects and exhibits were handed over to the Rwanda Bureau of Investigation at Kabaya station for further forensic investigations.
He reminded the public that illegal mining, especially in protected areas, and vandalism of forests are practices punishable by law.

Article 72 of Law No. 064/2021 of 14/10/2021 governing biological diversity provides that without prejudice to the provisions of other laws, a natural person who undertakes mining exploration activities or operates mines or quarries in a protected area, commits an offence.

If convicted, he is liable to imprisonment for not less than one year but not more than three years and a fine of more than Rwf 5 million and not more than Rwf 7 million.

If the offense referred to in paragraph one of this article is committed in a national park or a strict nature reserve, the penalty is a prison sentence of at least three years and at most five years and a fine of more than 7 million of Frw. but not more than Rwf 10 million.

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