Illegal gold mining is reaching new record highs in Venezuela as hyperinflation, power cuts, as well as food and medicine shortages are pushing citizens to either flee the country or find new ways of survival.
A UN heritage site famous for green tourism is now home to multiple illegal mines.
Arguably the biggest problem facing Venezuelans in their day-to-day lives is the ongoing currency inflation, which means even the smallest amount of gold is good enough for the struggling population as they can use the metal to pay for everyday staples.
Most of those panning for gold are flocking to the country’s Canaima National Park, where even indigenous Pemon people, native to the region containing Venezuela's famous Angel Falls, have now left ecologically driven lives as tour guides to mine for gold, The Wall Street Journal reported.
According to the article, the precious metal has now replaced the bolivar as the national currency within the UNESCO-listed area, whose 500 million year old pillars of erosion inspired Disney's "Up". Locals are said to be digging mines the size of a football field as they search for gold, even though mining in the vast national park is illegal.
Fed up with economic despair, masses of Venezuelans are simply fleeing. Earlier this month, the UN office for humanitarian coordination (OCHA), said the number of refugees and migrants who have left the South American country since the economic crisis began in 2014, has now reached 3 million.