September 16, 2019
Username:
 In 2023-Impact of Conflict Minerals

Topic:
Country: Venezuela
Delegate Name: Haley Berry

11/19/23
Submitted To: SPECPOL

Amongst nations considered part of the Global South, the mining of natural minerals has proven to be a vital source of income to developing economies. The presence of such minerals has also served as a vastly unregulated medium across many countries, allowing for foreign powers and domestic factions to exploit such resources for financial gain. The issue of addressing conflict minerals is often centered around the extraction of such resources by armed groups found within the African continent. While these instances, especially the plight of those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are indeed pressing matters, the extraction of conflict minerals in Latin America should not be overlooked.

From bauxite and coltan, to diamonds and gold, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is rich in natural minerals. Unfortunately the extraction of such resources has often occurred under the watch of gangs and guerilla groups known as sindicatos and colectivos. Such illegal mining operations have driven Venezuela’s deforestation rate to be one of the highest in Latin America, destroying thousands of hectares of the Amazon rainforest each year. These gang-affiliated groups often levy taxes on local indigenous mining communities and use subversive labor practices to extract as many valuable minerals, namely gold, as possible. The administration of Nicolás Maduro seeks to address the rapid deforestation caused by illegal mining in efforts to promote principles of ‘eco-socialism’ while finding other alternatives to funding government operations, which have been stunted by an economic war waged by the United States of America.
In 2014, a dramatic decrease in global oil prices crippled the Venezuelan economy in ways unimaginable. The nationalization of oil under the administration of supreme commander Hugo Chavéz created a great improvement in the quality of life for the Venezuelan people, bringing in billions in profit. However, following the death of Chavéz and the election of Nicolás Maduro, the United States almost immediately imposed needless economic sanctions on oil and gold exports out of political spite. Such sanctions have effectively cut off Venezuela from the international market, and it is the intention of the Maduro administration to reintegrate the nation politically and economically. The substantial sanctions on oil have driven Venezuela to seek mineral extraction as a substitute for income, and gold now finances the Maduro administration.

This new dependence on gold extraction has revealed many issues within the systems of mining in Venezuela, stemming from the policies of Hugo Chavéz, known as Chavismo. The nationalization of many resources and the abatement of private sectors unfortunately made deregulation of many industries rampant, and government oversight became less frequent, ultimately attributing to the high levels of illegal mining present in many areas, namely national parks in the states of Amazonas and Bolívar. The Arco Minero, or the Orinoco Mining Arc is the primary source of illegal mining operations, spanning one of the most biodiverse areas of the Amazon rainforest. Within this region is the Yapacana National Park, where the Venezuelan government recently began engaging with illegal miners in Operation Bolivarian Shield Autana 2023, an effort to stunt illegal mining and restore destroyed areas of the Amazon. As of July 1, 2023, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FANB) has evicted more than 12,000 illegal miners. In a press conference, FANB general Domingo Hernández Lárez expressed, “They [illegal miners] have been evicted voluntarily and their wellbeing attended to. They understood that nothing will prevail over environmental rights.” Albeit drastic, such measures must be taken in order to most efficiently tackle unregulated mining activities. Once illegal miners have been entirely evacuated, the Maduro administration plans to begin the restoration program, specifically cleaning up the mercury that is used in mining processes, which has largely polluted local water systems.

Venezuela believes that in addressing conflict minerals, the remaining environmental impact and restoration should also be taken into consideration. Regarding the aspect of armed groups being involved in the extraction of these minerals, Venezuela hopes that the focus centers not only around the violations of human rights and labor practices that can be found in these mining zones, but the role that the Western world plays in facilitating such abuses. Despite U.S. efforts to sanction and ban Venezuelan gold from the international market, much of it becomes formalized and is still sold in the U.S., Middle East, Europe, and Africa. This highlights a crucial flaw in the mineral trade, in which minerals extracted from illicit mines are put under no further review, and the origin of the resources are not taken into question. Such hypocrisy allows Western nations to politically condemn such practices while they economically benefit from them. Sanctions are a piddling excuse for the continuation of a destructive cycle that hurts the pride and welfare of the Venezuelan people.

In a tumultuous economy with an inflation rate that has surpassed 1,000,000% within the last year, any approach to the topic at hand will require short-term solutions to alleviate suffering, as this style of decision making has become so prevalent in Venezuelan culture. Humanitarian aid is well overdue, and the UN mustn’t delay. Despite approval by both the Maduro administration and the opposition, there has been a stall in the creation of a fund for aid that was to be created with Venezuelan governmental funds that had been frozen overseas. Such a hindrance will only exacerbate the current humanitarian crisis, and thousands of Venezuelans will continue to remain impoverished without access to adequate sources of income as security operations on illegal mines continue. To prevent an overdependence on mineral resources, sanctions on both Venezuelan oil and gold must be lifted. If the West is to be held accountable for their part in worsening this crisis, more nations should consider adopting the World Gold Council’s ‘Conflict-Free Gold Standard’, which gives guidance for discerning the supply chain origins of gold, potentially from conflict zones. The adoption of voluntary frameworks such as the Kimberly Process, a multi-sectoral alliance designed to reduce the trafficking of conflict diamonds, should also be reconsidered for implementation.

Ultimately, efforts to solve the issue of conflict minerals will require the support and compliance of the nations producing such minerals and those who actively benefit from them. What nations afflicted by the presence of armed groups need from developed nations is not pity and unenforced policies on paper, but legitimate and tangible action that has immediate effect. Any thousands of grams of gold are worthless when compared to the thousands of lives lost to forced labor and grueling mining conditions that it took to retrieve those minerals. Swift measures must be taken to minimize further distress, and the nation of Venezuela eagerly awaits collaboration and dialogue with other impacted nations in this committee to best address the situation.

Bibliography

“Conflict-Free Gold Standard.” World Gold Council, https://www.gold.org/industry-standards/conflict-free-gold. Accessed 19 November 2023.

Diaz, Emilia, and Joseph Poliszuk. “Venezuela emerges as new source of ‘conflict’ minerals.” Center for Public Integrity, 4 March 2012, https://publicintegrity.org/accountability/venezuela-emerges-as-new-source-of-conflict-minerals/. Accessed 19 November 2023.

“Gold and Grief in Venezuela’s Violent South.” Crisis Group, 28 February 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela/073-gold-and-grief-venezuelas-violent-south. Accessed 19 November 2023.

“OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.” OECD, https://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/mining.htm. Accessed 19 November 2023.

“Venezuela Security Policy: Illegal Mining and Deforestation.” InSight Crime, 5 July 2023, https://insightcrime.org/news/criminal-threats-venezuela-illegal-mining/. Accessed 19 November 2023.

Start typing and press Enter to search