HomeNewsBriefIllegal Mining Growing Rapidly in East Venezuela
BRIEF

Illegal Mining Growing Rapidly in East Venezuela

ILLEGAL MINING / 16 JUN 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Illegal mining in eastern Venezuela has expanded rapidly in recent years, drawing attention to a mining region where no large underworld structures are known to operate but that nonetheless offers ideal conditions for criminal exploitation.

According to Venezuela’s Center for Ecological Investigations (CIEV) -- cited in the 2014 annual report by the Venezuelan Education Program – Action on Human Rights (PROVEA) organization -- ilegal mining in Venezuela’s Guayana region (which consists of Bolivar, Amazonas, and Delta Amacuro states) is resulting in environmental degradation and the exploitation of local populations (pdf).

Between 2013 and 2014 alone, the CIEV documented a 40 percent increase in hectares destroyed by illegal miners in Bolivar state, with the areas of Sierra Imataca in El Palmar, Paragua, Upata, and El Manteco most affected (See map below, produced by El Nacional).

Venezuela Mining Map

Mercury (used to mine gold) has also polluted water sources, while local communities, the CIEV notes, have also been pressed into service to carry fuel and liquor to miners in a form of “neo-slavery.”

Since 2003, the Venezuelan government has launched five initiatives in the Guayana region to end illegal mining, reported El Nacional. However, Americo De Grazia -- a National Assembly representative from Bolivar state -- said these efforts have been unsuccessful because they create a “cocktail for violence,” and criminalize an activity that has been going on since before the country was founded.

On June 10, De Grazia presented before the National Assembly’s Energy and Petroleum Commission a report calling for the creation of a “Guayana Mining Corporation” to regulate how, when, and where mineral extraction can take place in the region.

InSight Crime Analysis

Illegal mining has been a consistent problem in other Latin American countries like Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, with criminal and guerrilla groups -- such as Mexico’s Knights Templar and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- extorting and controlling mines and even setting up their own mining operations.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mining

Such powerful criminal and insurgent organizations do not have a significant presence in the isolated parts of Venezuela where illegal mining is rife. However, other conditions -- such as an informal economy short on employment opportunities, an absent state and the potential for large profits -- are present, making for fertile ground for illegal mining. With the Venezuelan government’s repeated failures to impose its authority and curb illegal mining, there is little to impede the expansion of the trade.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2021

The visual is an arresting one. A Venezuelan army sergeant, his face swollen and his nose bleeding from a beating,…

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 7 JUL 2016

Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro has reportedly asked his Colombian counterpart not to extradite to the United States an alleged Cartel of the…

KIDNAPPING / 11 JUL 2014

Venezuela reportedly saw 110 kidnappings in the first six months of 2014, indicating a downward trend in incidences of the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…