Geology of Venezuela

Located on the South American Plate immediately north of the equator, there is a mountain ridge in the northwest, a lowland in the center, and another mountainous area in the south. The two show caves are located in the mountains at the coast. The lowland has no underground sites for obvious reasons. The mountains in the south are dominated by Precambrian rocks of the craton, crystalline rocks, metamorphites, and quartzite. There are vast layers of quartzite, forming huge plateaus, which are partly eroded. The hard quartzite forms escarpments which are several hundred meters high, some are almost 1,000 m high. The results are numerous tepuis, table mountains, which are full of quartzite karst caves. This is the location of the dinosaurs in Arthur Conan Doyle (1912) The Lost World. In reality, it is really spectacular and still as remote as in the books. You have to climb 300 m high vertical walls to reach the plateaus, or use a helicopter.

We have listed two caves as show caves, and we are not happy with this decision. Actually, they are both in a semi-wild state, the only differences to the other caves are the mandatory guided tours and the open hours. Like the other caves, they lack even basic development like trails and electric light.

Speleology started in Venezuela in the 1960s. The Sociedad Venezolana de Espeleología (Venezuelan Speleological Society, SVE) was founded in 1967 and still exists. They publish a yearly publication, the Boletín de la Sociedad Venezolana de Espeleología (Bulletin of the Venezuelan Speleological Society). They also have a national registry, or cadastre, which contains maps and descriptions of over 700 caves [2011]. It is a non-profit organization formed by volunteers, only a few are actually scientists, which is normal for speleological societies all over the world.

Venezuela has numerous resources, first of all more oil than any other country in the world. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately) the migration to less fossil fuels due to climate change, renders this resource increasingly invaluable. Or probably it becomes more valuable, but the amount which is sold decreases massively. The oil reserves are located in a basin in the northwestern corner of the country.

To the south and east there are numerous gold and even some diamond deposits. And the are thousands of illegal mines. The poverty of the people results in illegal mining under extremely risky conditions. The result is frequent mine collapses with many dead miners each year. Also, the ecologic drawbacks are immense, posionous substances which are used destroy the ecosystem. On the other hand, the country so far has no show mine.