Guyana's army investigates claims troops robbed mining camps

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 28, 2013 6:20 PM

GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - Guyana's army is investigating allegations that five of its soldiers raided several Brazilian mining camps in the South American country's dense jungle, smoking drugs before beating the miners and stealing gold.

The army said it had sent a team to the area and that any of its troops found responsible for the "dastardly act" would face court martial.

"The Guyana Defense Force is committed to making the mining community a safe zone so our citizens and international investors can ply their trade peacefully," the army said in a statement.

Guyana, a former British colony, is the continent's fourth-largest miner of bauxite. The government wants to expand infrastructure and grow its mining and agriculture industries.

One of the miners, who asked not to be named, told Guyana's Kaieteur News that the soldiers were believed to have come from an army base at Eteringbang, on the border with Venezuela.

The miner said that before robbing the mining camps, the soldiers had confiscated marijuana from some local sellers and smoked it in public view.

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Officially, Guyana produced a record $700 million worth of gold last year. But the authorities say illegally mined gold is also smuggled abroad. Guyana has only 750,000 inhabitants in a territory larger than England that is mostly covered by jungle.

(Reporting by Neil Marks; Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Christopher Wilson)