MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Struggles between Indigenous People and Miners over the control of gold Deposits leaves one dead and

Published by MAC on 2005-11-28

Struggles between Indigenous People and Miners over the control of gold Deposits leaves one dead and eight Injured in San Luis del Morichal

28th November 2005

One person was killed and eight left injured after a heavy exchange of gunfire between miners and indigenous people, an incident which took place on the night of Saturday November 22 in the mining settlement of San Luís del Morichal, located about four hours from the town of El Dorado, in the municipality of Sifontes, Venezuela. The incident occurred after various miners from El Dorado tried to excavate an open pit mine located on indigenous lands, an action that the local people oppose with all their might.

According to first versions of the incident, the armed confrontation left in its wake one man dead, identified as Humberto Ruiz Valiente, 33 years old, and eight injured, among them one indigenous person.

It appears that the confrontation was provoked by the great quantities of gold generated weekly by mines, as both sides struggle for control of the zone and for rights to the discovery. A rumour is circulating throughout the community that there is a mine which holds great amounts of gold, and this apparently aroused the interest of the mine workers.

Rivalry over control of operations in the zone is not new. Just a few months ago, miners from the zone of kilometre 88 blockaded the highway which connects to Santa Elena de Uairén, demanding to be allowed to perform artisanal mining around the Las Cristinas mine, run by mining company Crystallex.

Local council person, Carlos Chancellor, now in hiding, mourned the events in El Dorado, and attributed them to "the total absence of effective mining policies which would guarantee the organization of coherent and sustainable development of mining in Guayana, in El Dorado, in San Isidro, La Paragua, El Manteco and the region of Gran Sabana."

The leader said that this one of the consequences of the handing over of mining and land to translational mining companies, without taking into account the local population of miners, and he criticised the fact that mining companies have not met their promises in terms of generation of jobs, social projects and development of industrial mining.

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