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As Venezuela’s near-nothing oil industry slinks further into nothingness, a new commodity is taking shape in the crisis-stricken Latin American country sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves: gold.
According to a new study, land in Venezuela is increasingly being used for mining. In fact, according to non-profit Wataniba cited by Bloomberg, land use for mining has tripled over the last 17 months in Venezuela, and that usage is set to increase after in April, the Maduro-led government pegged six rivers in Bolivar that could be used for more gold extraction.
Venezuela has, until recently, counted on its oil revenues to keep the country afloat, but a mismanaged oil industry, crippling oil sanctions, and the pandemic have rendered its once-lucrative industry nearly obsolete.
Gold mining is not new for Venezuela. It has a thriving illegal gold trade that has caught the eye of Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups as criminal elements, violent ones, control numerous illegal mines.
But now, Venezuela is looking to lend a bit of legitimacy to its gold mining business as the oil business becomes more and more difficult. However, this “legitimacy” has included, according to reports, killing off any opposition to the mining, including back in May the killing of as many as 13 indigenous people protesting the installation of new mining equipment in the Caura River.
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that the private jet of Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, had flown to Venezuela to pick up some of this illegal gold for the purposes of trading it for coveted and hard-to-get U.S. dollars, highlighting the likely desperation involved with any industry that could potentially take over for lost oil revenues.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.