2018 The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Small Newsroom winner

Digging into the Mining Arc

About the Project

For three months our reporter visited Venezuela and its disputed mining areas, gathering exclusive material on Latin America’s most underreported resource conflict. A mining project started by the federal government is putting at risk more than 4,000 mi² of the rural south of the country, were the Amazon Rainforest find its limits, putting at risk the environment and dozens of indigenous and other traditional communities that are subjected to a high increase of malaria disease, mercury contamination and deforestation. In the area, armed paramilitary and former guerrillas of Colombia started to dispute the gold, diamonds and other minerals from the area.

Problems related to Venezuela’s current crisis such as widespread corruption, a lack of cash money, fuel shortages and a general culture of fear made fieldwork a rather complicated experience. During the investigation, our reporter even got detained by the National Guard for 24 hours.

The story also portrays the collapse of state gold miner Minerven, whichproduction has plummeted almost at the same pace as the growth of illegal mining. But it is part of that gold, extracted with rudimentary methods and outside the law that every month arrives at the Central Bank of Venezuela, which reveals the symbiosis of the authorities with illegal mining. The rest of the gold is trafficked abroad by the Army and organized crime.

We worked together with Venezuelan journalists, were guided by indigenous leaders and often touched base with local civil society. This have only been possible due to a partnership between the Brazilian based newsroom InfoAmazonia and the Venezuelan Correo del Caroní. The story was published in three languages and was featured in seven major news outlets from five countries.

As a result of the investigation, Dutch MP Ronald Raak asked Undersecretary for Kingdom Relations (The Netherlands) Raymond Knops questions about mineral trafficking from Venezuela to the Dutch Caribbean. This resulted in an ongoing debate and investigation.

The platform we built to publish this 10,000 words investigation is also innovative, framed in the idea of scrollytelling. The multimedia contents that accompany the texts vary dynamically as the reader navigates the texts without interrupting their reading by other contents.

Finally, we change the way we work, including the reporter as part of the platform development process, understanding that everything is part of the content and that the visual presentation is part of the story.

This piece was published with a grant support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.