Historically, this region has alternated between neglect and attention on the part of Venezuelan rulers, both of which have had negative and positive results. During the past 20 years, the Chavista narcostate has shown fluctuating levels of attention particularly when both Chavez and Maduro were keen to find new sources of money. During this period, the government has tried to implement 6 programs[i] in partnership with various countries[ii] – the latest one being the Arco Minero[iii] plan announced on February 24, 2016[iv] – to exploit the vast gold[v], diamond[vi], coltan[vii] and other mineral reserves[viii]. The results have been catastrophic both for the region[ix], its people, the environment and will probably have tragic lasting- if not irreversible – effects on Venezuela and beyond.[x]

The human and environmental abuses can be classified into five major categories:

[i] Actualidadygente.com “Cinco Planes de Control minero no han logrado frenar extraccion ilegal en Guayana” http://actualidadygente.com/noticias-venezuela-hoy/41757-cinco-planes-de-control-minero-no-han-logrado-frenar-la-extraccion-ilegal-en-guayana

[ii] Clavel A. Rangel Jimenez, “Gobierno va por quinto plan contra la mineria ilegal” Correo del Caroní http://correodelcaroni.com/index.php/politica/item/15018-gobierno-ensaya-quinto-plan-contra-la-mineria-ilegal-en-bolivar

[iii] Clavel A. Rangel Jimenez, “Del plan Guayana socialista al Arco Minero del Orinoco”, Revista SIC Centro Gumilla “Decreto 2.248 de la Gaceta Oficial Nº 40.855 que crea la Zona de Desarrollo Estratégico Nacional Arco Minero del Orinoco (AMO) en una extensión de 111.843, 70 kilómetros cuadrados, más grande que países como Portugal, Panamá o Cuba.” http://revistasic.gumilla.org/2016/del-plan-guayana-socialista-al-arco-minero-del-orinoco/ Junio 2016

[iv] Wikipedia https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arco_minero_del_Orinoco

[v] Clavel A. Rangel Jiménez, Revista SIC, Centro Gumilla Para mayo de 2016 el Gobierno avanza en sus intenciones de entregar el proyecto Las Cristinas, la quinta mina de oro en el mundo con más de 17 millones de onzas probadas, a la transnacional canadiense Gold Reserve.” http://revistasic.gumilla.org/2016/del-plan-guayana-socialista-al-arco-minero-del-orinoco/ Junio 2016

[vi] Jeanfreddy Gutierrez Torres, Mongabay.com “The government also estimates there to be three billion carats in diamonds in the region, and at least 300 thousand metric tons of rare earth elements: cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and thorium.” (Oct 31, 2016) https://news.mongabay.com/2016/10/thirst-for-coltan-gold-threatens-venezuelan-forests-indigenous-lands/ October 2016

[vii] Jeanfreddy Gutierrez Torres, Mongabay.com “Thirst for coltan, gold threatens Venezuelan forests, indigenous lands” “From 2008-2010, tumbling oil prices caused by the global economic crisis, prompted socialist President Hugo Chávez to announce the nation’s salvation: it lay in hidden reserves of a dull black metallic ore, vital to the world and worth $100 billion dollars. 31 October 2016” “ Maduro’s administration — which is struggling for its political life amid food and medicine shortages and major civil unrest — late this summer announced the opening of vast swathes of the country’s pristine wilderness and the signing of contracts with transnational and domestic mining corporations.” https://news.mongabay.com/2016/10/thirst-for-coltan-gold-threatens-venezuelan-forests-indigenous-lands/ October 2016

[viii] Bram Ebus, “Arc of Desperation”, www.Earthisland.org, “According to government estimates, the entire Arco Minero region contains some 7,000 tons of gold, which if certified would make Venezuela’s gold deposits second only to Australia’s. Similarly, it estimates the region has $100 billion in coltan reserves (the metallic ore is widely used in electronic devices), as well as three billion carats in diamonds, and at least 300,000 metric tons of rare earth elements. None of these estimates, however, have been independently verified.” http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/arc_of_desperation/ Sept 2017

[ix] Jeanfreddy Gutierrez Torres, Mongabay.com – “Illegal gold mining, which uses toxic mercury in its production, pollutes rivers and poisons local populations. Venezuela’s Southeast is already suffering from a “perfect storm” of illegality, deforestation and mafias, while there are regular reports of attacks on miners and indigenous people in the biologically rich Venezuelan” Amazon.

https://news.mongabay.com/2016/10/thirst-for-coltan-gold-threatens-venezuelan-forests-indigenous-lands/ October 2016

[x] Victor Peña, LaPatilla.com “Dávila agregó que el proyecto es más grande que Panamá, Cuba, otras islas del Caribe y más grande que muchos países europeos.“No solo va a afectar a las comunidades locales al sur del Orinoco, nos va a afectar a cada uno de los venezolanos, va a ir mucho más allá de nuestras fronteras“, señaló.” https://www.lapatilla.com/site/2017/12/07/ecocidio-del-arco-minero-del-orinoco-es-mas-grande-que-panama December, 2017