George Engels * (colaboración para PeriodismoCC)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has set out, by decree, 12% of Venezuela’s total landmass to be exploited for non-renewable metals and minerals.
Critics, including prominent chavistas and Venezuela’s indigenous peoples, have lambasted President Maduro’s Orinoco Mining Arc – AMO, in Spanish – for being “unconstitutional.” They claim that the mega-mining project’s alleged economic benefits will be vastly outweighed by its devastating environmental, social, and humanitarian impacts, and have labelled the AMO as a potential “ecogenocide” and a “national sovereignty threat.”
Nevertheless, President Maduro insists that the AMO will revitalise Venezuela’s crumbling economy and help it move away from its exclusive dependence on crude oil exports. To that effect, the president has signed at least 10 memorandums of understanding with foreign and national mining companies worth several billion dollars.
High ranking government officials have even speculated that the AMO’s reserves’ value may exceed USD2 trillion, but precise figures are non-existent since the majority of the area’s reserves have not yet been certified.
President Maduro has also claimed that the vast area will be mined in conformance to the highest environmental standards and that the area’s inhabitants – many of them indigenous peoples with traditional ways of life – will benefit from the creation of jobs brought by the mining companies.
But experts disagree, stating that the type of mining that would take place in the AMO – open-pit mining – is internationally recognised as having catastrophic environmental consequences, and that the Venezuelan government lacks the expertise and the funds to ensure environmental norms are met.