As the recently-released United Nations report says, some gold, diamond and bauxite mines in the Venezuelan Amazon area are under the control of the gangsters. The criminal authorities exploit, beat and even kill workers.
In Venezuela, the criminal groups have become more active since concessions for foreign mining companies were terminated in 2011. Almost a decade after, Venezuelan security and military forces fail to prevent crimes and have participated in some violence against miners, the UN human rights office reported on Wednesday.
According to Nada al-Nashif, deputy UNHR chief, the Venezuelan government should change the situation as soon as possible to avoid further possible victimization among the mines workers.
Upon releasing of the UN report on Wednesday, there was no immediate response from Venezuela, one of the UN body’s 47 members. According to Reuters, Venezuela’s ambassador Jorge Valero is expected to address the Human Rights Council.
Describing an area known as the Orinoco Mining Arc, the UN report says: “Much of the mining activity within and beyond AMO is controlled by organised criminal groups or armed elements.”
Nearly 150 men and women are reported to have died in or around the mines from March 2016 to 2020, with security forces implicated in half of the incidents, it said, adding that the government had not replied to its request for information.
“According to accounts received … bodies of miners are often thrown into old mining pits used as clandestine graves,” the document said.
Venezuelan criminal gangs exploit children’s labour on mines
Venezuela is a country with the richest soil -gold, diamonds, coltan, iron and bauxite are mined. The miners, who include young children, lack employment contracts and are exposed to mercury contamination and malaria, the UN experts concern.
Created by a government decree in 2016, the Orinoco Mining Arc area of some 111,000 sq km in the Venezuelan Amazon is equivalent to 12 per cent of the national territory.
In addition, the national central bank has not published data since 2018 on gold and other mineral supplies exports, their destination or foreign currency earnings, the report said.
The UN called for the government of President Nicolas Maduro to regularise mining activities and ensure that they meet international legal and environmental standards.
The Maduro government has supported small-scale mining since 2016 to bring in revenue amid an economic crisis. Operations have expanded as the United States has increased sanctions meant to force him from power.
Since 2011, when concessions for foreign mining companies were terminated, the presence of criminal groups has increased sharply since 2015, coinciding with the rise in international gold prices.