The governor of the state of Bolívar, Ángel Marcano, said this Friday (23) that 208 people have already been rescued from the gold mine that collapsed in La Paragua, southeast Venezuela. According to him, there are still 16 deaths and another 16 injured. The accident was reported on Tuesday. Called Bulla Loca, the mine was 750 km from the capital Caracas.

According to Marcano, operations at the site have always been illegal. He said that Bolívar will continue to be a mining state, but that it is important to guarantee the safety of this activity for both people and the environment. According to him, the policy in Arco Minero began to regularize some mines and take the activity to places that do not pollute Venezuelan rivers.

The Arco Minero region has almost 112 thousand square kilometers with reserves of gold, diamonds, iron, bauxite, copper and coltan. La Paragua is also an indigenous land zone.

The governor had already said that “a considerable group” of people “worked on their own initiative to seek support for their families, even if they did not have authorization for this activity.” According to him, the fact that the mine is illegal prevents the authorities from having a reference on how many people actually worked there.

The landslide was recorded at 3pm (local time) on Tuesday. The location is difficult to access for search teams and makes it difficult to update the number of deaths and injuries. According to the Venezuelan newspaper TalCualthe Bulla Loca mine began operating in mid-2023 illegally.

President Nicolás Maduro deployed the Simón Bolívar Humanitarian Task Force to help with the search. The elite group has around 1,500 employees. The Chief Executive also expressed solidarity with the families of the deceased.

Residents of La Paragua gathered on Thursday to ask for the continuation of searches and speed in rescues. According to residents, there are more people missing than the 16 deaths indicated by the Bolívar state government.

The governor of Bolívar also stated that illegal mining has been operating in the region for years and that the lack of registration makes preventive actions for these mines difficult. According to him, there are 100 employees from the National Risk System working to identify other regions possibly affected. Marcano said the work will last about a month, but could be extended.

Over the past three days, the death toll has been a matter of discussion among local authorities. The mayor of La Paragua even said that there were at least 30 dead from the landslide. On Wednesday, the governor himself had already spoken of 25 deaths and, the following day, he updated the number to 16.

“I have to give public opinion the reality. The number that has been reached so far is 16 dead. The helicopters went to look for the injured and dead, when they arrived they found nothing,” Marcano said.

The regional governor announced that he will hold meetings with miners in the region to “organize” their activity.

This is the third incident involving Venezuelan mines in four months. In December 2023, an illegal mine in the San José de Wadamapana region gave way. In the incident, 12 people died and one was missing. A landslide on November 12 was reported at another Venezuelan mine, but there were no deaths.

According to AFPlast year the Armed Forces counted around 14 thousand illegal miners expelled from the Yapacana National Park, located in Amazonas.

*with information from AFP

Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho


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