Safeguarding wilderness areas in the Guiana Shield
Covering more than 15,000 square km it is an area of extraordinary, and mostly unexplored, forest, extensive freshwater resources and the potential promise of mineral wealth.
For many years its isolation kept it safe from exploitation and, even today, access is extremely difficult. But this very isolation also means that it is difficult and costly for authorities to monitor. It has recently become clear that this area is now being targeted for exploitation by speculators.
In 2013, a Permission for Geographical and Geophysical Surveys (PGGS) was granted by the Guyanese authorities to a Brazilian/Guyanese mining concern. When the company’s subsequent request to construct an airstrip in the area was denied they pulled out of the arrangement. In a separate episode, there are conflicting reports over the construction of a road initiated by gold miners attempting to access this area from the South Rupununi.
Development is critical and inevitable, but these disturbing reports suggest that decisions on the future of this area are being taken (both with and without the knowledge of the authorities), in the absence of any understanding of the full value of this vast wilderness. WWF has helped draw attention to these incursions and is calling for a halt to any further encroachment into this disputed area until a full biodiversity inventory has been undertaken.
WWF believes that the future of this area should only be determined based on a full understanding of what is there – and what we risk losing if any exploitation is not well planned and monitored.