The Mining Arc of the National Strategic Development Zone of the Orinoco River was created by decree on February 24, 2016, and is a concession area of 111,843 square kilometers for the mining of gold, diamonds, iron ore, copper, bauxite, and coltan, among other resources. The Arc is larger than the entire territory of Portugal and represents 12.2% of Venezuela’s landmass.
“FundaRedes has repeatedly denounced the massive clear-cutting of trees, which is carried out in the OMA in order to prepare the ground for the construction of illegal runways, used for the take-off and landing of aircraft involved in operations drug trafficking and mineral smuggling,” the report read.
According to the NGO, deforestation causes fragmentation of ecosystems and this, in turn, leads to loss of biodiversity and contamination of soil and water.
“The type of mining that is practiced in the south-central region of the country involves highly destructive methods such as surface mining which uses mercury to separate gold from other components, thereby destroying and contaminating the soil. layer by layer and polluting the tributaries of major rivers,” the document states.
Experts consulted for the report also pointed out that the use of pressure washers also has an impact on soils, leaving them completely barren and devastating their biodiversity in a way that makes their natural recovery almost impossible.
“The State is complicit in the irrational exploitation of our mineral wealth in the Orinoco mining arc and, therefore, has violated fundamental rights such as the right to life, to a healthy and sustainable environment, to right to work, to property, to health, to the rights of indigenous peoples, among others,” the filing reads. “Similarly, there is evidence of non-compliance by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with criminal law of the Environment, which stipulates that acts that threaten natural resources and the environment must be considered criminal Magna Carta has also been violated when designating nature reserves in southern Venezuela as “strategic development zones”. .
Illegal armed groups
The FundaRedes report highlights that most of the illegal mining operations in the Orinoco mining arc are led by armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the so-called “syndicates”, which are gangs whose leaders and members are prison bosses. In many cases – the document indicates – these organizations operate with the consent of the Venezuelan National Armed Forces.
In detail, the NGO mentions that the coltan mines of Parguaza, which is part of the Orinoco basin, are managed by the ELN, while the diamond mines near the towns of Guaniamo and San Vicente de Paul are operated by both the ELN and the FARC, which also have posts in nearby national parks.
“The Orinoco Mining Arc has become the stronghold of irregular armed groups. The illegal activities that take place along the clandestine routes in Venezuelan territory contribute to the financing of terrorist groups and this occurs with the knowledge and complicity of the Armed Forces and institutions of the Venezuelan State,” the report concludes.