VENEZUELA Pernon Indians and environmentalists are battling against mining companies and government officials who want to exploit the gold-rich deposits in Venezuela's Imataca rain forest reserve. The latter wants to build towns and tourist hotels in the wilderness. However, the Indians feel that development could mean death of the jungles and of their tribe. Workers started cutting a swath through the forest in south-eastern Venezuela for a 750 km-high voltage electricity line. The line will provide power to mining companies drawn by the gold deposits worth billions of dollars.

In a bid to halt the project, about 400 Indians even tried to block the highway used by the crew-persons. Imataca is one of the most impressive endemic forests in the world and is visited by nature lovers and scientists.

The power line will slice through the Canaima National Park, one of the 100 UN-designated heritage sites, and is home to the mysterious flat-topped mountains. Government officials see the region as an untapped source of wealth which could be used to help improve the economic status of Venezuala's populace.

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