CARACAS, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Arco Minero del Orinoco, a state-run resource-rich mining zone in Venezuela, produced more than 17 tons of gold in 2017 for Venezuela's Central Bank (BCV), an oficial said on Monday.
"We are diversifying the economy through the mining engine, so that it is another pillar of the nation's economy," Minister for Ecological Mining Development Victor Cano told local media.
Cano said the government is working to boost mining to diversify an economy long reliant on oil exports, and forge a sustainable industry.
The government has signed 300 agreements with representatives of small mining operations to regulate the activity and establish new mineral extraction techniques that are more environmentally friendly, he said.
"We want to control the damage and the impact," so the area "can recover in the shortest time possible," said Cano.
Located in southern Bolivar state, the Arco Minero del Orinoco encompasses an area of 111,843 square km, which is rich in gold, diamond, coltan and bauxite deposits.
Smuggling is a problem plaguing the sector in Venezuela, which led the government to launch Operation Metal Hands last week to dismantle groups that buy gold and other valuable metals and minerals from small mining operations, and then smuggle the material out of Venezuela through organized crime networks.
"We are working ... to prevent these gold mafias in Bolivar state, especially in the Arco Minero del Orinoco," said Cano