14ymedio, Madrid, 4 October 2023 — More than 60 people have been tried in Ciego de Ávila since February of this year for crimes related to the illegal extraction of gold. A much lower number than in 2021, when 300 individuals were forced to pay fines and other penalties, in addition to the confiscation of the materials used in their work, including tools and vehicles.
In the province, the problem is long-term. In January, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy, was in the municipality of Baraguá, one of the most affected, where he asked them to face the problem with “rigor, rationality and systematicity.” The official alluded to the dangers of this practice, which puts health at risk due to the lack of adequate equipment, but also to the impact on the local economy, where gold is used as a currency, further devaluing the peso.
The local magistrate has been of little use, and the Municipal Court of Baraguá has had to deal with 16 cases of this type, including a complaint of disobedience and a trial for bribery, linked to illegal mining and punishable by up to eight years in prison. Humberto González Figueroa, a specialist in Criminal Law and president of the Provincial Popular Court of Ciego de Ávila, told all this to the newspaper Invasor.
To these cases are added five trials for soil contamination, in which six people were convicted
To these cases are added five trials for soil contamination, in which six people were convicted. Three received prison sentences and another two, correctional sentences.
In addition, there are nine pending trials for that same crime, and the accused remain either in pre-trial detention or have been released on bail.
Invasor, more than an informative piece, has dedicated a moralizing article to the matter, admitting in spite of everything that “no one learns from someone else’s mistakes.” The provincial newspaper explains the articles of the Criminal Code and the Mining Law that punish this type of activity and points out that Camagüey, Las Tunas and Holguín are also among the territories that suffer the most from these crimes.
“Those who feel encouraged by the easy enrichment and conquest of gold, in the style of the North American West, must also keep in mind that the short, medium and long-term effects of exposure to mercury and silica dust are well documented by specialists, not only for them, but also for their families and even nearby populations,” the report concludes, trying to paralyze illegal mining through alarmism.
Beyond the health concerns, the Government is concerned about the pillaging suffered by its mines in the center of the country
Beyond the health concerns, the Government is concerned about the pillaging suffered by its mines in the center of the country, almost all of them handed over to concessionaires such as the Australian Antilles Gold, which in March 2022 presented a project to partner with the state-owned GeoMinera S.A. and carry out surveys in several sites on the Island, three of them in Ciego de Ávila, one in Camagüey (La Unión), another in Holguín (Aguas Claras) and La Demajagua, in Isla de la Juventud.
The problem of illegal gold mining in Cuba began to worry the official press in 2018, when the official newspaper of the Communist Party published a report about the deaths of several people due to this activity.
“In search of a quick fortune, illegal miners not only take illicit advantage of the national heritage and damage the environment, but they also endanger their lives,” Granma’s text said.
By that time, this newspaper had already published, in its first months of life, a report in which it addressed the phenomenon, specifically in Holguín, where the miners themselves spoke about their working methods and the risks that stalked them.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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