At least 12 people died in the Venezuelan town of El Callao after a closed gold mine collapsed as a result of the heavy rains affecting the area, it was reported Saturday. As of today we have 12 dead, who entered a mine that was closed a long time ago, said the secretary of Citizen Security of Bolivar state, Edgar Colina Reyes. The mine was flooded by the rains, which caused these artisanal miners to lose oxygen and die due to respiratory insufficiency, he explained.
”We have officers from the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistic Investigations Corps (CICPC), pathologists, after the recognition by the relatives will go to the cemetery because the bodies are quite decomposed,” added Colina Reyes.
In 2021, the collapse of a gallery in a mine in the same area caused one death, while 34 other people could be rescued.
The Venezuelan initiative Proyecto Educación, Producción y Ambiente (EPA) denounced in February this year that the south of the country is seriously exposed to mercury as a result of illegal mining taking place in the area.
Mercury is causing serious problems to the environment, causing air and water poisoning. Southern Venezuela is seriously exposed by this element, due to illegal mining by criminal organizations, said the EPA Project.
In the case of the affected areas in southern Venezuela, the effects of mercury have caused the death of indigenous people and miners.
Gold mining, both legal and illegal, abounds in the south of the country. Miners often work in difficult conditions and accidents are common. Large areas of this region are prey to armed criminal gangs.
The Orinoco Mining Arc is plagued by violence and shrouded in secrecy because many mines operate almost on the edge or outside the law. These places offer lucrative jobs to ordinary Venezuelans, who face terrible conditions.
At an underground mine in Bolívar state (in the south of the country) dynamite is used to blast rocks some 80 meters below the surface and workers descend daily to work in sweltering heat without protective gear.
The miners typically begin their day by strapping themselves to a thick steel cable, from which they hold on as best they can as they descend some 60 meters down a shaft, through which they enter a world where the only light available is from the lamps on their heads.
They wear shorts and flip-flops or rubber boots and need to crouch low to move 20 meters down a kind of ramp. There they pick up stones, throw them into sacks carried on a cart, pull them up to the surface with pulleys, and carry them to a mill.
By law, about half of the gold extracted must go into state coffers, yet illegal mining has been on the rise. Workers' rights advocates claim that labor laws are not respected and human rights violations abound. In addition, violence between rival gangs has forced many miners to reconsider their trade.