Venezuelan opposition party demands environmentally friendlier mining operations

El Guariche mine in the Bolívar state. (Image by Luis Adolfo Ovalles, Flickr).

Venezuelan opposition party Encuentro Ciudadano is preparing a report aimed at informing discussions currently underway in the parliament to modify the country’s mining law. 

“Ecological and sustainable mining was something the [Nicolás Maduro] regime made up to justify the environmental crime that is being committed. In this sense, it is necessary to derogate the decree that created the Orinoco Mining Arch, as well as decree 2165 issued on December 30, 2015, which is a partial reform to the current Mining Law and which is biased towards the exploitation of gold, diamond and coltan,” said in a media statement César Ramírez, the party’s president in the southeastern Bolívar state, the top mining area in the country.  

Even though the use of mercury is forbidden in Venezuela, cyanide is widely used in gold mining operations

According to Ramírez, the development of the Orinoco Mining Arch is the biggest ecological crime ever committed in Venezuela and this is why it is urgent to create a modern mining law that allows for less-invasive and environmentally friendlier mechanisms to exploit mineral resources. 

The politician said that even though the use of mercury is forbidden in the country, cyanide is widely used in gold mining operations.

Besides more ecologically conscious technology, the document to be presented demands the prohibition of extractive activities in natural areas under a special administration regime, such as national parks and protected areas. It also proposes to make mandatory the restoration, reclamation and reforestation of mine sites. 

César Ramírez also said that his report brings up the idea of decriminalizing small-scale mining activities because, as things are right now, authorities tend to seize most of what artisanal miners produce and ask for bribes. In his view, it is necessary to allow them to carry and sell up to 10 grams of gold, which is basically what they extract on any given day. 

“We cannot leave this in the hands of police officials because it implies giving them unlimited powers and this affects everyone,” he said.