16 killed in Venezuela's worst mining accident in years, officials say

  • At least 16 people were killed on Tuesday in the collapse of an illegally operated gold mine in Venezuela.
  • Demands are increasing for government assistance with the injured and recovered bodies from the collapse.
  • The first funerals occurred in La Paragua, the nearest community to the mine known as Bulla Loca, which had been operational for a short time.

Families and friends began burying loved ones on Thursday 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 mount 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 overnight 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.

Family of mine victims

A sister of miner Santiago Mora, left, cries with other relatives as he is buried at the cemetery in La Paragua, Bolivar state, Venezuela, on Feb. 22, 2024. The collapse of an illegally operated open-pit gold mine in central Venezuela killed at least 16 people and injured several more, state authorities said. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Several relatives, neighbors and friends, wailed 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 duck-taped wooden casket.

Angel Marcano, the the pro-Maduro governor of Bolivar state 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 hospitalized.

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, U.S. sanctions.


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 centers in hopes of getting rich quick and escaping crushing poverty in urban centers, from where more than 8 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.”


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