Families mourn miners killed in Venezuela’s worst mining accident in years

23 February 2024, 11:44

People mourn the death of miner Santiago Mora
Venezuela Mine Collapse. Picture: PA

Officials have raised the death toll to 16, and said there were also 16 injured.

Families and friends have begun burying loved ones who were among at least 16 people killed in the collapse of an illegally operated gold mine in a remote area of central Venezuela.

The mournful tributes come as demands mounted for government help with the injured and recovered bodies from Tuesday’s accident — one of the worst in a poorly regulated mining industry that has soared as the Opec nation’s oil production dwindled.

The first funerals took place at the cemetery in La Paragua, the community closest to the mine known as Bulla Loca, which had been in operation for only a few months.

Officials have raised the death toll to 16, and said there were also 16 injured. The casualty numbers are expected to rise.

Residents accuse officials in President Nicolas Maduro’s government of undercounting the full extent of the tragedy.

Several relatives, neighbours and friends, cried as the casket of 24-year-old miner Santiago Mora was lowered into the ground.

“We are going to miss you so much,” they screamed after placing flowers on the wooden casket.

Angel Marcano, the pro-Maduro governor of the state of Bolivar where the mine is located, told reporters that all 16 bodies have been turned over to relatives. He said three of the 16 injured remained in hospital.

Venezuela’s government in 2016 established a huge mining development zone stretching across the central area of the country, to supplement flagging revenue from its dominant oil industry, which has seen production decline to near its lowest levels in decades as a result of mismanagement, corruption and, more recently, US sanctions.

Neighbours of miner Santiago Mora attend his burial in Venezuela
Neighbours of miner Santiago Mora attend his burial in Venezuela (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

Since then, mining operations for gold, diamonds, copper and other minerals have proliferated. Many are wildcat mines, operating on the margins of the law.

Despite brutal conditions and the presence of criminal gangs, ordinary Venezuelans continue to flock to mining centres in the hope of getting rich quick and escaping crushing poverty in urban centres, from where more than eight million Venezuelans emigrated in recent years.

“One would not want a colleague, a human being, to die like that,” said Carlos Marcano, a miner who survived the collapse and was receiving medical treatment in La Paragua on Wednesday. “Some of us made it. There are a few injured, but there are still a number of dead who have not been retrieved.”

By Press Association

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