Economic dislocation has prompted many Venezuelans to engage in illegal mining, which is taking a growing toll on the country’s Amazon region.
Desperate for economic growth in his crisis-ravaged country, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has increasingly pinned his hopes on mining. Presenting a 2019-2025 Mining Plan last June, the beleaguered successor of the late Hugo Chávez claimed the country possesses reserves of gold, diamonds, nickel, bauxite and other minerals worth US$1.2 trillion. He suggested they will offset the decline of the country’s once-powerful oil industry, saying: “The mining motor is the non-oil alternative to creating riches in Venezuela.” The prospect of an influx of large-scale mining projects alarms many experts. They worry that against the current backdrop of virtually nonexistent government regulation and enforcement, big extractive projects will exacerbate the already severe environmental and social toll being taken by a surge of illegal, small-scale mining in the past 10 years. The trend is playing out in the Venezuelan Amazon, a region of 458,000 square kilometers (177,000... [Log in to read more]