Mining for news


Don’t miss Efecto Cocuyo’s take on illegal mining in Venezuela’s South.

Thanks to intrepid reporters working for Discovery Max, we can witness the devastation that illegal mining is causing in the region. And when we say “illegal,” we don’t mean “undocumented immigrants” or “garimpeiros.” We mean hard-core, armed criminal gangs working in cahoots with the Venezuelan military in order to rape and pillage our homeland.

It all began when Hugo Chávez nationalized mining in the country. Out went the multinationals, and in came the Venezuelan klpetocrats – the Armed Forces and the paramilitary groups they seem to be employing. Although, come to think of it … weren’t the Chinese involved in this guiso as well?

Here is the value added:

Armando Betancourt, a local council member from the city of El Callao in Bolívar state, claims that the people behind these [paramilitary] organizations are high-ranking members of the Armed Forces. He even claims that the military directly gives the gangs the weaponry they use (AR-15 or AK47 automatic rifles). He claims the military is the head of the local mafia.

The “El Chingo” gang, working out of the Planta Perú mine which theoretically belongs to state-owned Venezuela General Mining Company, boasts about being an organization that does not heed to military authority. They refuse to pay the military their commission, and in turn the military has attacked and robbed them. According to one of the gang’s members, military personnel kill their members and claim they did it.

What. A. Mess. But go and read the entire piece. (Sorry, in Spanish, as is the video above)

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  1. The documentary which is the basis for this excellent El Cocuyo article was inserted in a recent CC blog by a fellow blogger . I made the comment then which I repeat now that the La cristina Gold mine mentioned in it was the subject of World Bank litigation by an expropiated Canadian Mining Company resulting in the imposition ot a recent 740 milllio USD award agaisnt the Venezuelan Government . Additionally some two years ago Venezuela promised the Chinese the rights to this Mine ( among other things) in order to persuade it to grant the Venezuelan Govt a 700 million USD loan which has yet to be paid. The cost to the country of the regimes sordid mismanagement of Venezuelas natural resources is not limited to what it would have received if it had honoured its commitments to the Canadian Company (in terms of royalties and other payments) but the cost of paying it the 7540 million USD it now must pay it in indemnity for the expropiation and the 700 million USD loan owed to the Chinese. All to allow some crooked Military mafias to profit from the gold riches of the country. !!

      • Funny that Floyd should exhibit (in jest of course) that pervasive pursuit of voracious monetization which in Venezuela is represented by the phrase :´cuanto hay pa eso’ ……on second thought thats also a common enough attitude in contemporary US life, where everything is turned into a business !! By way of example look how the airlines have transformed even the most menial aspect of air travel into a profit opportunity .!!

        • Well, BB, sometimes what is inserted into the Commentariat is picked up later by the blog with an added “take” — all well and good. Except that the earlier commenter/blog poster/others through twitter, also post the video (by DiscoveryMax), followed by EC’s take, the difference being that EC is asking for money, through contributions, for its reporting. And that is not in jest.

          • It is one thing to request proper compensation for one’s invaluable contributions; quite another to indulge in abominable mass pilferage, pretending to prepare for an imaginary Yankee Empire to invade.

    • Las Cristinas concession was not the object of ICSID case ARB(AF)/09/1 between Gold Reserve and Venezuela, but Brisas and Unicornio Concessions. Las Cristinas concession is part of another dispute; namely Crystallex International vs Venezuela ARB(AF)/11/2, and that case has not been decided as of March 2015. Gold Reserve filled a “default” order against Venezuela, after the country did not respond the case filled against it in a Court in New York, for the ICSID award to be recognised by US courts. This opens the door for confiscations of Venezuela’s properties, including PDVSA assets, in the US if Venezuela does not honour the ICSID decision.
      The point is that mining should have not been ever allowed within forest reserves; neither in the past nor now. The late Corte Suprema de Justicia ruled out a moratorium on mining concessions in 1998, thanks to a complain filled by several NGOs and Civil Associations against President Caldera’s Decree 1850, which enacted the PORU (Plan de Ordenamiento y Reglamento de Uso) of Imataca Forest Reserve, where all the aforementioned concessions are located.
      Environmentalists and Indigenous peoples alike were attracted by the mermaid songs of ecosocialism during Chavez’ campaign in 1998, when the latter said that “if for extracting gold, the land has to be stripped off the forest, then I’d rather keep the forest”. Once these organisations were neutralised, by deceiving them with the Constituyente and that bullshit about popular power, Chavez enacted the new PORU for Imataca in 2004, again, authorising mining within the reserve. Later in 2011, the revolutionary TSJ would ruled in favour of an appeal filled by the Ministry of Environment against a decision of a court in 2008 halting the enactment of Caura Forest Reserve’s PORU. Technically opening all Forestry Reserves to mining, this time with case law of no other than Venezuela’s highest tribunal. Where are all these NGOs and Indigenous organisations now? They were successfully divided and antagonised, the Ministry of Environment scrapped, and the judiciary effectively controlled. GAME OVER

      • I stand humbly corrected , evidently you are much more in the know of the particulars of the legal cases which have sprung up as a result of the govts handling of Las Cristinas , I simply connected the name Las Cristinas with the Golden Reserve litigation case and wasnt aware that there are other cases pending .

        Does this mean that Golden Reserve and Crystallex international both havean overlapping claim against the govt relating to the Las Cristinas Gold Mine ?? Wonder how thats sorted out ??

        Somehow I heard that the Russians had also been offered a bit of the pie , This govt certainly knows how to make a mess of things .

        I am not so sure that this automatically opens the possibility of a seizure of Citgo assets following the advise given by some Manhattan lawyers in a conference they gave .but then again maybe you know better.

        • Bill,
          Both companies, Gold Reserve and Crystallex had different mining concessions. There are no overlapping claims, since Las Cristinas and Las Brisas are different concessions.
          Gold Reserve has filled proceedings both in Europe (Paris) and USA (New York) to enforce the ICSID award. If Venezuela does not pay, it will see seizures of everything within both jurisdictions. But Venezuela can, and will, delay as much as it can, the decisions. It can take years for Gold Reserve to enforce the award, but there is no way Venezuela can avoid such payment. It is patently clear from the award that Venezuela treated unfairly Gold Reserve by terminating the concession through a letter from the Ministry of Environment, without even allowing respecting the company’s due process, thus violating the BIT between Venezuela and Canada.

          • Thank you for your clarification , I didnt realize that they represented different concessions .. Of course it only makes things worse because this means that there are two cummulative claims (although one is further advanced than the other) relating to the governments handling of its gold mines so even more money is at stake than I originally thought.

          • That’s not all; there are another two more cases regarding mining companies and Venezuela: Rusoro, again in Imataca (circa 3 billions claim), and Highbury International AVV (although this last case was dismissed, it was brought back to ICSID and is on-going) in lower Caroní.

        • “The point is that mining should have not been ever allowed within forest reserves”

          Nice lesson in Corruptzuelan Judiciary Modern History, but the abbreviated, simple fact remains Chabrutismo and its bought-out Military Mercenaries Thieves took over the Gold as soon as they could, to steal it in its entirety through “sindicatos” and get filthy rich in a hurry: Welcome to our own Criollo Wild Wild West.

          • Yes, the question is how did we get here. I just wanted to illustrate the reader with some case law, so the conversation is not only about “Chabrutismo”. In fact, the biggest blame is on the hands of several intellectual groups and very well do Venezuelans who thought they could control Leviathan. They flirted with failed Coups, demonized CAP and judged him, and overall destroy the institutions of this country even before handing it to Chavez.

      • As long as the gold is there, the illegal miners will be there to exploit it. It has been going on for decades. When there are billions of dollars of metals at stake then the only logical and environmentally correct thing to do is to allow exploitation by experienced mining companies under the strictest of environmental and social standards and once the gold is mined then there will be no need for illegal mining, because you have taken the reason for being there in the first place. Sometimes the best option is not the 100% moral position because that presumes that the government will act in a proper manner. IE if Venezuela declared that mining area as a wilderness reserve do you really think that the illegal mining would stop? ? no I didn’t think so, especially in a totally corrupt society as Venezuela. The legal mining companies were kicked out because the corrupt government officials were not going to make any money from legal mining. They WANT the illegal mining because that is when people pay their tribute. It is simple economics. If people are stealing – take away what they are stealing. It is not the best solution but it is one that works. People have to stop giving opinions based on their own moral code. Think like an corrupt greedy official that is a Norco thug and then you will see how to fix the problem. Bleet on about what is right and wrong and you will get nowhere.

        As I understand it there is two deposits one called Brisas and one called Las Cristinas in the KM 88 area. Each deposit was taken away by the government rather than see them exploited. There are literally millions of ounces of gold in each deposit worth billions to the government yet they cannot get it developed…hmmmm, I wonder why? The simplest explanation is usually the right one. The government and military leaders don’t make any personal money by the legal method.

        • That’s correctEmilia,

          First, there is no such a thing as “exploitation by experienced mining companies under the strictest of environmental and social standards…” If the country does not control small, illegal mining, what does it make you think it will control, more efficiently, larger companies that can easily pay bribes; as easy as paramilitary groups controlled by the military. Besides, give me one example of transnational companies abiding to the strictest environmental rules in developing countries, particularly in those with a “totally corrupt” society? Based on your assumption of totally corrupt society, there is no enforcement possible under such circumstances, either way.

          Second, first things first. Imataca Forest Reserve exists since 1967, before gold and other minerals were prospected within that area. Imataca’s environmental ailments (and those of Caura Forest Reserve) are mostly given by the fact that the LOPOT (Organic Law for Spatial Planning) of 1983 did not conceptualise all the ABRAEs (Areas under Special Administrative Regime) it created in art 15 and 16. Therefore, there was a legal loophole due to lack of tacit authorisation and/or prohibition to mining within the legal figure of Forest Reserve, inherited by the Forestry Law of Soil and Waters of 1965. Nevertheless, the latter explicitly spoke about national wood industry, and they were going to be supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture, not the Ministry of Mining. It is true that it does not prohibit tacitly mining, but at least the primary purpose was very clear.

          Third, despite all the problems that the 4th Republic had, illegal mining was a minor issue, very focalised in areas where the state had already allow grand scale mining, i.e. in alluvial concessions around Km 88. It was mostly done by foreign individuals (garimpeiros), and it resulted in a problem due to the vastness of the area and the impossibility of supervised such massive, forest border with Brazil and Guiana. Most of the concessions could not be carried because of the immense legal battles ensued against the state (issuing of permits) or against another companies. Originally, all these concessions were given to Venezuelan companies, later acquired by transnational companies; again triggering lengthy battles in court.

          Fourth, Imataca is one to the last remnants of intact forests at global scale. We are talking about one of the most biodiverse environments that still exist. Such wilderness harbours thousand of plants and animals, some of them endemic. There are three rivers originating there, each of them longer than 100 km. Besides, the reserve is home to several indigenous tribes with rightful claims to land deeds, and at least, due consideration when prospecting activities within their ancestral territories. In ecosystem services, just water production, potential bioprospecting, ecotourism and scientific production would make a case for conserving intact at least 70% of the reserve.

          Fifth, we did not really need to wipe out this forest considering the oil reserves, the aluminium and the iron we already exploit. Besides, we were supposed to diversify our economy, not deepen even more our natural resource dependency.

          Sixth, Venezuela developed between 1966 and 1983 one of the most ambitious and comprehensive environmental frameworks of Latin America; but the Latin American crisis and the constant decline of export revenues since 1982 halted all possible continuation of such policy.

          Seventh, the moral issue is utterly superficial as propose by you, and does illustrate the poor understanding you have of it. Pragmatism, in your case, promote the ensuing destruction and does not tackle the fundamental, structural problem, which is mining should not be allowed in such biodiversity rich ecosystems, even the more so considering the forthcoming battle with climate change and the extinction crisis that is risking the viability of future generations.

          Lastly, there are much more than just two concessions in Km 88. I already explained that to Bill Bass.

          • If the country is so corrupt maybe it should be shut down and all activity involving the state stopped to prevent acts of corruption and the destruction of priceless natural treasures , thus we would have a perfectly morally pure situation . The population could be sent to the African dessert where the risk of enviromental harm is minimized !! Please……ni calvo ni con dos pelucas ……now we have a new God …biodiversity which can be interpreted to mean a hundred different things .!! The accusation that all organized business are corrupt and will willfully and knowingly breach all laws and standards in pursuit of slimy profits is such a caricature that it speaks of a typically self brainwashed irrationally zealous outlook .

            Im always very afraid of the Torquemada approach to any economic activity which is not blessed by being absolutely primitive and ineffectual in character . I dont want to go into any polemics here which after all will serve no purpose , but I would like with all respect to note my total disagreement with this puritanical approach , however much I intellectually and personally admire its proponent,.

          • The destruction of these forests is a crime against humanity. Once gone they won’t come back. So sad.

  2. I think that one of the salient points to take away from this is that the Venezuelan government has effectively lost control (not to say sovereignty) over significant sectors of the country, including the one in this article, sectors of the inner cities that are controlled by “Chavista” gangs, and areas near the borders with Colombia that are controlled by FARC (less than before) and other paramilitary groups. Little by little, the government is losing Venezuelan territory to lawless gangs and mafias. For any new government, simply reestablishing possession and rule of all parts of Venezuela will pose a significant challenge, let alone reestablishing law and order.

    • The point is that the Corruptzuelan Government IS in control of Gold and mines too: Through Gangsters and “sindicatos” as depicted above, controlled by the Putrid Military = Chavistas.

      • Floyd,

        But, “Chavismo” is not a cohesive centrally controlled entity. Just suppose (as hypothetical exercise) that Maduro sees the article above and decides to do something about it. He orders the army to take control of the area, disband the syndicates, remove the illegal miners, and prosecute the army officers involved. Would it happen? I don’t think so. The officials he gives the order to would say, “Si, Señor!” But, then nothing would happen. There is no one in the administration clean enough to have the moral authority to move against any of the others. In their universal corruption, they have a form of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) that prevents any serious prosecution of one of their own.

        If you agree with my hypothetical above, you will see why I say that the government is not in control of large segments of the country.

        • Sure, there is no “Government” in Corruptzuela, if by that you mean any form of law-abiding, cohesive organisation, ideally with three separate, well defined branches: imagine a triangle. At the top is the Executive Branch. The two bottom corners are the Judicial Branch and the Legislative Branch..

          In our case it’s more like a bunch of thugs hiding in Ali Baba’s cave, with Cabello and the top Military crooks forcing other public-office thugs to behave if they want a piece of the bounty.

    • Roy: That exactly the lesson , the State has lost or negligently given up control over large areas of Venezuelan life and territory while allowing multiple criminal gangs and politically sectarian interests to take over every thing to serve their own particular agendas. Venezuela is become Mafiazuela !!

      The kind of attitude that allows this to happen is that for ordinary Venezuelans impersonal institutions are phantoms , abstract chimeras , lacking in real existence . You saw it in what one peron answered on being asked ´who does this mine belong to’ ……, he said ´to nobody’. This is an attitude which goes back centuries and which is reflected in an old latin adage : ´res omnium , res nullius’, ‘what belongs to all belongs to no one’!!

      The state exists only as the vehicle of an ideological group to abuse the uses of state resources to impose on all their own despotic regime and sick mode of rule !!

      • Not quite BB: Even the Plagiarists who stole my video here get the point: ” the people behind these [paramilitary] organizations are high-ranking members of the Armed Forces. He even claims that the military directly gives the gangs the weaponry they use (AR-15 or AK47 automatic rifles). He claims the military is the head of the local mafia.” (aka: “sindicatos”)

        In that sense, I reiterate that the “government” is in charge of the Gold.. in the sense that they control who’s digging it, buying, selling it without taxes (20 tons a day they say?) and who gets el Filet Mignon? Cabello y los Militares.

        • Floyd the state is supposed to represent advance and protect the interests of all , not just those of one specially priviledged part of society , be it the business establishment , or Leaders of the PSUV , or criminalized members of the military . What is happening is exactly the opposite , these powerful groups have come to own and exploit the resources of the State for their sole benefit excluding all others , the state has become (in fukuyamas words) Patrimonialized , transformed into the private property of these crooks, which pretty much implies that the realm of the public ( which belongs to the whole country) has dissapeared, has been taken away from the mass of its citizens..

  3. Our poor little country is loot ripe for the taking. The day the cancer that is corruption becomes the central topic of conversation, regardless of political inclinations and colors will be the day there might be a chance for a future for Venezuela.

    • Exactly. People talk a lot about fancy geo-poltical, macro-economic, global finance convoluted theories: CORRUPTION and theft is all we need to know, when talking about Vzla.

    • You know what’s interesting (and I know this is a huge over-simplification of things/history, but bear w/ me):

      Think about the purpose of the original migrants to North America, to the now US/Canada: to build a new world.

      What was the purpose of many (if not all?) original Spaniards heading to South America? To make a quick buck, by finding some gold, to then retire back home and enjoy their loot/riches… That’s exactly what Venezuela’s been all about, and still is about: trying to make a quick buck, be it through golden gold, black gold, cheap-foreign-currency gold.

      How the F do you change that? Beats me.

  4. Spaniards who came over where basically get rich quick adventurers or picaros , coming to make fast fortunes through use of their superior macho warrior force or poverty honed wits !! We descend 60 odd percent from those adventurers , and Chavez followers flatter to call themselves Socialists !!

    You cant change that unless you change the culture and that can take a lot of time and effort and a big dollop of good luck . There is a way to handle or control (not erradicate) the problem but thats too big a subject to insert in passing in this text.

      • Gosh Mayke I wonder how you started to take such interest in all my mistakes , could it be something I wrote earlier that touched on your nerves . If so I take it back, whatever it was , I do admire your writing and a lot of your well thought out opinions .

        Also I dont think that genes have all that much to do with how societies develop their good or bad habits , but sometimes genes point the way to a original cultural or historic condition that make some people adopt certain good or bad predispositions given the right enviroment , even if time passes .!!

        Im also not overly inhibited by the timing of a discussion , there are many discussions which deserve to be revisited because they refer to subjects which complex understanding is never totally exhausted . Genetical reductionism of course isnt one of them .

        • Chile and Costa Rica are rather similar to Venezuela (no, they are not more “German”). The difference couldn’t be more striking.
          One of the difference was our Independence: it was one of the bloodiest, we lost by far most of our educated inhabitats – they either were murdered or went into exile.

          • This is going to far back. It is true that Venezuela’s exodus during the Independence war was epic, but you forget that Venezuela had the highest growth of the whole Latin America during five decades, before the Latin American debt crisis and the 80s kicked in.
            I’d rather blame a three decades long economic crisis that has wreck havoc and seems not to have foreseable end.

          • Maybe Im mistaken but I remember Costa Rica as more like Merida or some andean mountain state, with stable family groups , small family farms , long tradition of being good dedicated farmers , no big cities. We all think of the indian in each region being the same , but the timoto cuicas from our andes where known also for their dedication to sedentary agriculture , advanced agricultural practices , different from the coastal Caribs who gloried in their warrior /big hunter status , in their warlike customs , who often practiced cannibalism . Dont know the Costa Rican demographics, what sort of spaniard took to the Costa Rican mountains . Dont know that the Costa Ricans resemble the average Venezuelan of the plains or the Coast at all , specially those who in time became modern marginals with a more precarious prosmicuous style of life .

            The Chileans were colonized heavily by people from northern spain , venezuela more by andalucians and generally mediterraneans , dont know whether they were more agricultural colonists than riches hungry conquistador adventurers (most of which were from southerns spain , specially extremadura) . Dont know what kind of indians peopled the country originally , where they more like the timoto cuicas or like the caribs , of course we know of the ferocity of the southern Araucanos , but about the others very little. One thing that stands out is the difference in population growth .

            In 1960 Venezuela had 6 million inhabitants and Chile 7 million , now they are 17 million and we are more than 30 million . Our population growth has been much more rapid and subsantial, they grew by 10 million and we grew by more than 24 million.. We seldom see it but fast population growth has a dislocating effect on the traditional family and social fabric . Makes countries less organized , less capable of meeting the challenges that big fast population growth poses on existing institutional insfrastructure . resulting in a bigger presence of marginals with all that entails .

          • Yes, it’s been awhile, but I had read that for a variety of reasons Costa Rica never had the huge plantations or farms where large numbers of african slaves were brought in. It was relatively ignored by the Spaniards, partially due to byzantine Spanish laws regarding the colonies where no trade was allowed between those colonies north of Panama and those south of Panama, which kept it isolated. Thus, there was not the resultant, familiar dynamic of a very high income inequality with a small elite and a large underclass.

            I probably butchered what I read long ago, it’s been awhile, but that’s the jist of what I recall. I’ve been there several times and it’s amazing. It’s embrace of eco-tourism decades ago was a very wise decision, in more ways than one. Sad thing is, Venezuela could easily have just as much to offer as Costa Rica in that department, plus better beaches!

  5. Artisanal mining of this nature is extremely dangerous, environmentally destructive work, in addition to being a kind of theft of a public resource. Not exactly a workers’ paradise.

    • I did not see mercury mentioned, but the gold shown in the foundry was clearly obtained with the mercury method(before being melted down, the gold had a sponge-like appearance). That is really nasty stuff.

  6. The syrupy sentimental position that nature is some kind of vestal virgin which cant be explioited in any way because it offends the sensitivity of the poetically minded or natures noble creatures ( the indigenous children of nature) is not one that attracts my sympathy . There is usuallytoo much moral self flattery in its histrionic posturings. Industry can and should be able to exploit natural resources even in pristine lands taking good care not to destroy the habitat , Demonizing industry indiscriminately for attempting to exploit natural resources in a desert or jungle is just a recipe for allowing worse things to happen , if the Cristina Gold Mine where now under the exploitation of a responsible mining company there would be much less destruction of nature than what we now see. .

  7. “Mineria Artesanal”.. sounds lovely, huh..

    Guess we should be glad it’s not an all-out Bulldozer mechanized monster mining operation, as in South Africa’s Apartheid — yet. Could be worse..

  8. There is no government in Venezuela, but a Regime. And the state is effectively broken with sovereignty being eroded at light speed (“expropiese” compensations, Esequibo prospecting, FARC controlled areas, Urban militias, Drug production and smuggling and the lost of the former PDVSA, still people line up to pay SENIAT and taxes…. how silly! Still there is an opposition making statements against US intervention!

    El enemigo esta adentro y se llama corrupcion (y falta de educacion!)

    The situation in the mining areas of Guayana state is dire, and has been dire for years. The latest Apertura was initially successful, but it hurt too many local interests, the same one that have flourished under the weak chavista goverments… We are fast becoming “Blood diamod” territory!!!

    Still opposition parties are thinking in protesting to demand a date for the upcoming elecciones municipales!.

  9. Many of you seem to be incredibly well-informed! I would love to have an update on the situation with the F.a.r.c. in Alto Orinoco. Even though we had a permit to go up the Rio Ocamo in 2009, the army prevented us from doing so because of the narco traffic by the F.a.r.c. at the time. The locales, Baniva, Hoti and Yanomami were/are all very concerned!


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