An artisanal gold mine in southeastern Venezuela collapsed, killing at least 12 people, the government said.

The landslide took place at Paraiba de San Jose de Wadamapa mine near the town of Icabaru in Venezuela’s Bolivar state.

The site is close to an Indigenous community and near the country’s border with Brazil.

Informal mining operations – looking especially for gold – continue to take place in mineral-rich areas in Venezuela.

Campaigners say that the practice results in deforestation and mercury contamination, while streams and rivers are affected too.

In November, local non-governmental organization SOS Orinoco reported a previous landslide at the same mine.

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By GlobalData

The accident comes days after Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro ordered the country’s state-owned companies to “immediately” begin to explore and exploit the oil, gas and mines in Guyana’s Essequibo region.

Maduro has ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of Venezuelan public companies, including oil giant PDVSA and mining conglomerate Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.

Essequibo is a territory larger than Greece and rich in oil and minerals that Venezuela claims as its own.