Venezuela open-pit gold mine collapse leaves 23 dead

Rescuers retrieve 23 bodies after a wall of earth collapses upon workers at an illegally operated mine in Bolivar state.

At least 23 people have died in central Venezuela after a wall of earth collapsed at an illegally operated gold mine while dozens of people were at work. Yorgi Arciniega, a local official, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that about 23 bodies had been recovered from the open-pit mine known as Bulla Loca in the jungles of the state of Bolivar. The accident happened on Tuesday. Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Carlos Perez Ampueda published a video of the incident on X, and referred to “a massive” toll, though he provided no numbers. The video showed a wall of earth slowly collapsing upon people at work in the shallow waters of an open-pit mine. Some managed to flee while others were engulfed. Some 200 people were thought to have been working in the mine, which is a seven-hour boat ride from the nearest town, La Paragua, according to officials.

#21Feb | Cumpliendo instrucciones del Vicepdte. Sectorial AJ. @ceballosichaso1 y en coordinación con el Gob. del Edo. Bolívar Ángel Marcano, funcionarios del SNGR junto a Organismos de Seguridad ciudadana y efectivos de la ZODI Bolívar, realizan Operaciones de Salvamento… pic.twitter.com/6FWE5SiE22

Edgar Colina Reyes, the Bolivar state’s secretary of citizen security, said the injured were being transported to a hospital in the regional capital Ciudad Bolivar, four hours from La Paragua, which lies 750 kilometres (460 miles) southeast of the capital Caracas. In La Paragua, desolate relatives waited on the shores for news of the miners. “My brother, my brother, my brother,” cried one as he saw a body being taken off a boat. “We ask that they support us with helicopters to remove the injured,” a woman waiting for news on her brother-in-law – a father of three – told AFP. Reyes said the military, firefighters and other organisations were “moving to the area by air” to evaluate the situation. Rescue teams were also being flown in from Caracas to aid in the search, he said. The Bolivar region is rich in gold, diamonds, iron, bauxite, quartz and coltan. Aside from state mines, there is also a booming industry of illegal extraction. “This was bound to happen,” resident Robinson Basanta told AFP of the unsafe working conditions of the miners, most of whom live in extreme poverty. “This mine has yielded a lot of gold … People go there out of necessity, to make ends meet,” he said. In December last year, at least 12 people were killed when a mine in the Indigenous community of Ikabaru, in the same region, collapsed.

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