The rise of cyanidation plants in Venezuela, key in the criminal plot of ‘blood gold’ headed by Maduro

Nicolás Maduro’s regime has unusually promoted the construction of new cyanidation plants in the Venezuelan Amazonwhich -as we have told in previous reports- has distributed at will among the Chavista leaders to profit from illegal miningwhich has promoted regardless of the consequences environment or the threat it poses to indigenous communities.

SOS Orinoco has investigated in depth the rise of this type of installation, which a priori -everything indicates- would be explained with the intention of get more profit to gold mining and maintain absolute control of the business. Thus, the gold-bearing material extracted would necessarily have to pass through these plants. But – we have already told you – the issue goes beyond what appears at first glance, according to NGO sources consulted by LDwhose identity we reserve to preserve your security.

The experts who collaborate with the organization work in the shadows and under anonymity since it took its first steps. Venezuela is “a totalitarian country” in which “it is very difficult to report”as its founder warned, Cristina Burelli, in statements to this newspaper. “It’s dangerous because you don’t know where you might end up,” she said.

We must bear in mind that -since 2018- SOS Orinoco has been investigating this ‘blood gold’ plot in which the Prime Minister himself is implicated, Nicolás Maduro, and his vice president, Delcy Rodríguez. A business with many ramifications, in which the cyanidation plants play an important role.

“The sudden investment and the extensive propaganda around the construction projects” put them on the track, one of the NGO researchers tells us. Maduro’s insistence on “what the government calls the shift to eco-friendly technology“, made them suspect. They are aware of the spurious interests that move the head of the Executive.

The sustainability excuse

The Venezuelan Government ratified the ban on the use of mercury in mining activities in August 2016 through a decree that prohibits the possession, storage and transport of mercury, as well as its use to obtain or treat gold and/or any other metallic and non-metallic mineral.

The measure would aimed -supposedly- to safeguard the health of citizens and the environment. But the truth is that, although in the long run it might be better to use cyanide than mercury, this practice requires a series of checks that, as you may have already imagined, are not being carried out.

The SOS Orinoco researchers they have not found “tangible evidence” that indicate that “the corresponding measures are being taken, not only in the management of cyanide within the process, but mainly in the waterproofing of the glue lagoons or deposits where the residues end up,” explains our source.

What is worrying, he tells us, “some official statements that point to the underestimation of proper management of these gaps and the savings implied by the use of filters in the process that, although they help reduce the cyanide content in the tailings, do not eliminate it in any way”.

On the other hand, they have been able to verify the “absence of information programs or campaigns regarding the dangers and precautions that workers and the nearby population must take”. And this, they indicate, “constitutes a serious fault in the event of an accident at the plants involving the uncontrolled release of waste into the environment”.

Cyanide gold mining is a controversial issue and its use must be accompanied by extensive controls. So much so that it is banned in a large number of countries. Of course, It is striking that the European ‘green’ leftwho condemns and protests against this practice in the old continent, silent before the strange bet ‘eco-sustainable’ of Comrade Maduro.

Greater profitability and control of the business

Everything indicates that the “eco-friendly” change of mercury for cyanide would guarantee the Maduro regime greater control, almost absolute, of the business. The treatment of the gold-bearing material extracted in the mines would have to be carried out -irremediably- in these plants processors that obtain gold by cyanide leaching.

Otherwise it’s hard to understand the sudden interest of the Venezuelan Government when the mercury disappears. What he did in 2016 was nothing more than ratify a ban that existed for more than 30 years In Venezuela. This was established by Decree No. 1470 of 1991.

On the other hand, it is obvious that Maduro, Delcy and the leaders of Chavismo who benefit from this illegal mining plot in the Venezuelan Amazon would be able -with this proposal- to make their business more profitable, since the use of cyanide allows to extract greater quantity gold than with other methods.

But all this being true, there are data that do not add up. The volume of gold that passes through the investigated plants and their activity is less than expected by the SOS Orinoco experts who have uncovered -among other things- how the Maduro regime has promoted illegal mining in the region to calm the desire of the Chavista narco-state to find new sources of money.

Scheduled plant boom

As explained in the latest report by SOS Orioco, one of the central elements of this new strategy for the control of gold in Venezuela is the “development of collection and processing centers of the gold-bearing material produced by the small miners (both those by trade and the opportunists) and the ‘millers’ (who crush the material, but do not extract it directly), who find in the collection and transport of residual sand from old processes of exploitation a material of easy collection and quick winboth for the miner and for the cyanidation plants”.

The Venezuelan government has sold the film as “the impetus for technological change that seeks to effectively replace the use of mercury with cyanide in gold recovery processes” through these new plants, as stated in the “First Socialist Plan for Economic and Social Development of the Nation (Plan de la Patria 2013- 2019)’ and is reiterated in the ‘Second Socialist Plan for Economic and Social Development of the Nation (Plan de la Patria 2019-2025)’.

In this way, it is explained in the document, “the installation of new plants would be justified”. The changes are undertaken “under the premise of greater efficiency in relation to other recovery methods” and also to “ensure the preservation of ecosystems, territorial integrity and sovereignty” (MPP for Ecological Mining Development, 2017).

The impact of the new cyanurators

The investigation of SOS Orinoco has confirmed at least 11 new plants. It’s curious the low socioeconomic impact that its construction has had in the localities in which they have been built. It seems that the exception is the Guacamayos area, in the La Sarrapia Plant locality, where it has generated new jobs.

“These plants cannot be considered a contribution towards the development of mining as a productive industry, since due to its location and operation it does not promote or accompany the rest of the industry’s productive chain”, explains the report. The experts are convinced that “they are not what they say they are”. An example of this is that some mines have been closed, such as the one in Colombia, “which produced a large amount of material that was treated at the Caratal plant.”

Nor does it seem to be explained from the environmental point of view. As we have already advanced a few paragraphs above, there is no evidence that the studies “that support the location and construction” of these new plants have been carried out. But there is something that the collaborators of the NGO have been able to verify. According to our source: “previsions have been made so that the process water is not the same which is used by the population.

A measure that -far from what one might think- “is not to take care of the adequate supply of its people, but to ensure good process quality“. For the expert consulted, “the situation makes it clear that for the Venezuelan Government it is more profitable a better performance of the plants than satisfying the quality of the services of their populations”.

What is behind and who benefits

Given the “absence of an adequate articulation of these plants within the structure of the mining activity”, the experts from SOS Orinoco conclude that “the construction of these plants does not respond, in any way, to a revitalization of mining activity“. “It has been designed and executed for the rapid recovery of existing ore in large deposits of previously treated tailing sand and whose only cost is collection and transportation,” explains our source.

Ultimately, the goal was none other than to “access a very large amount of gold without making large investments”. But, he adds, “neither should we disdain, unfortunately, the business that the construction of the facilities itself has been able to represent”. For the promoters of it, everything is profit.

Needless to say, the beneficiaries are the same ones who have enriched themselves with the division of the Venezuelan Amazon and the promotion of irregular mining in this region of incalculable environmental value. “There is no way to separate the short-lived mining policy -proposed by the government- from the appetizing fresh money obtained by Maduro and his hierarchs“, points out the SOS Orinoco expert.

For the team investigating the matter, “the militarization of mining activity and the distribution of mines among governors are clear examples of the formation of a large business for the new chavista-madurista political caste and with their backs to the country.” The use of these plants as instruments to control mining activity, he says, “guarantees that most of the production is channeled and distributed between Maduro and his hierarchs.”


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