Mercury from illegal gold mining in Venezuela threatens Caribbean ecosystems

Gold mining. Image: Knut-Erik Helle

An alarming report by Jewel Fraser, writing for Seafood Source:

A group of Venezuelan scientists and an investigative journalist told an audience of fellow scientists and journalists that, whereas in 2016 the Venezuelan government created the Orinoco Mining Arc National Strategic Development Zone, with the ostensible objective of inviting international companies to exploit and extract the country’s gold reserves, much of the extraction now taking place is being done illegally and having a detrimental impact on the environment, including the marine ecosystem.

The scientists, who included Francoise Cavada, Jose R Ferrer Paris, Juan C Amilibia, Jose Lozada, and Vilisa Moron-Zambrano, were sharing some of the findings of their research at the inaugural Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology, held 25 to 27 July, at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

They pointed out that efforts to ensure accountability for the mining’s environmental impact on the Orinoco River region, an ecosystem that is home to more than 1,000 fish species and is rich in diversity, have proved unsuccessful. There is no government institution in place to safeguard environmental laws and even environmental impact assessment reports cannot be accessed, they said.

Impacts that are likely attributable to the illegal mining are increased levels of mercury being found in some species of freshwater fish, including catfish. Though use of mercury for mining is illegal in Venezuela, it is nevertheless being widely used. The researchers advised that Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil should begin monitoring their seafood for mercury coming from Venezuela’s Orinoco River region.

See the complete Seafood Source article for more. 

[Image: Knut-Erik Helle]

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