Artisanal miners in Venezuela operate under illegal unions

Operation carried out by the military against illegal mining in Carabobo, Venezuela. Photo by Gobernación de Carabobo.

Following an operation against illegal mining in the north-central Carabobo state, General Juan Carlos Du Boulay Perozo, Commander of the Carabobo Defense Operating Zone No. 45, said that illegal miners in Venezuela have created “unions” in charge of controlling gold trading activities.

In the region under Du Boulay’s oversight, such illicit organizations operate in an area called Negra Matea, where food items are also sold illegally and people can only pay by cash. Such practice has become common in the country as it continues to battle one of its worst economic crisis, with food shortages pushing at least 80 per cent of the population towards a situation of food insecurity and annual inflation rates reaching 8,900 per cent.

In the past few years, illegal extraction of gold and other metals and their subsequent smuggling to foreign markets has started to be seen by many as a way to navigate the crisis.

According to Du Boulay, in the areas where such activities take place, sex work, drug trafficking, extortion and targeted murders have become the new normal.

The General also said that illegal operations are becoming more and more “industrialized,” as his team of 200 officials was able to corroborate during today’s operation. They found hoses and pumps that suggest that placer mining is happening in the area, as does the extensive damage they noticed on the topsoil.

Authorities also noticed that the nearby El Torito river and its tributaries, which provide drinking water to different towns in the region, are getting polluted by such activities.