Venezuelan soldiers have dislodged more than 11,500 illegal gold miners from the country's biggest natural reserve since July, where they cleared forest and contaminated water, the head of the military operation announced Sunday.
The miners were removed from the 320,000-hectare (790,737-acre) Yapacana park in Venezuela's south, where they had been "engaged in the systematic and sustained destruction of the environment," general Domingo Hernandez Lara said on social media.
The miners had felled and burnt trees in the forest, contaminated water and engaged in illegal underground drilling using "high pressure hoses and machinery to remove the layer of vegetation and... pollutants," Lara said.
Some were foreigners, though the general did not specify their nationalities.
In July, President Nicolas Maduro ordered the deployment of the Armed Forces to counter the advance of illegal mining he said was "destroying the Amazon of South America... and Venezuela."
The environmental NGO SOS Orinoco, said that in August 2023 there were about 23 illegal mines affecting 3,316 hectares (8,194 acres) of the Yapacana Park.