Dozens are feared dead in gold mine collapse as more than 100 workers are trapped in 114ft illegal pit run by gangsters in Venezuela

Thursday, February 22, 2024
 – At least 30 Venezuelans are feared dead after a 114ft illegal deep gold mine collapsed, trapping over 100 men inside.

The wall of the open illegal gold mine, named Bulla Loca, collapsed on Tuesday, February 22, sparking a rescue effort in the remote town of La Paragua, near the Venezuelan Amazon in Bolivar state.

Dozens of miners remain trapped as of Wednesday, with rescue teams dispatched to the remote area, mayor Yorgi Arciniega told CNN en Espanol.

Arciniega said late on Tuesday that he planned to take 'some 30 caskets' to a community near the mine, indicating that officials feared the death toll could rise into the dozens.

Local reports claim the Bulla Loca mine was opened last year and is under the control of several criminal gangs.

Relatives of the miners gathered in La Paragua, the closest community to the mine, to ask the government to send aircraft to the remote location to rescue the injured and recover bodies.

'We are here waiting, please, for the government to support us with helicopters, planes, anything,' said Karina Ríos, whose daughter’s father was trapped in the collapse.

'There are quite a few dead, there are people wounded. Why don’t they give us support, where are they?'

Ríos said she is worried that bodies could quickly decompose because of the area’s conditions.

Criminal groups that run gold mines in the south of Venezuela have mutilated miners accused of stealing, extorted business owners, and forced young children to work without security equipment as they tighten their grip on a region that is rich in minerals, Human Rights Watch said.

'The armed groups seem to operate largely with government acquiescence and in some cases government involvement', the report said.

Human Rights Watch also said that some mines in Bolivar state are controlled by Colombian rebel groups now operating in Venezuela, including the National Liberation Army, which has an estimated 3,000 members and is still fighting to overthrow Colombia’s government. The group bombed a police academy in Bogota last year, killing 21 people.

'Poor Venezuelans driven to work in gold mining by the ongoing economic crisis and humanitarian emergency have become victims of macabre crimes by armed groups that control illegal gold mines in Southern Venezuela,' said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

'It is critical for gold buyers and refineries to ensure that any Venezuelan gold in their supply chains is not stained with the blood of Venezuelan victims.'

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