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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gold Occurrences in Venezuela

Coat of Arms of Venezuela
By Sigge Kotliar

President Hugo Chavez has nationalized the gold mining industry in Venezuela as of August 23, 2011 after he has signed a decree.  In the terms of the decree all mining companies will have to sell the gold they extract from Venezuelan soil to the government.  This decree insures that the government boosts the government control of all gold mining operations.  Under the terms of the decree private mining companies will be able to participate in mining operations in Venezuela only as minor partners of the government.  This law took effect with its publication in the Official Gazette that says all gold mined in Venezuela will be sold or turned over to the government.

It was revealed that over 40,000 hectares of land and over 15,000 people were freed from conditions of slavery as part of Plan Caura as part of the Venezuelan plan to curb illegal mining.  The chief of Venezuela’s Operational Strategic Command that was formed in 2010 when the Bolivarian Armed Forces were given the task of stopping illegal mining in the southeastern part of Bolivar state.

A great deal of the gold found in Venezuela is associated with the Guyana Shield that is a Precambrian Shield that extends into Brazil, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana.  The shield itself consists of several distinct geological parts that can be correlated to tectonic events that occurred in West Africa.  This consists of several rock types with gneiss, amphibolite, itabirites along with intrusive granites that are all found in the Imataca Complex of Venezuela. Collectively the whole complex is called the Amazonian Shield that is between 3.6 and 2.7 billion years old.  It is in this complex of rocks where gold is found in Venezuela and surrounding areas.

In the 1950s Venezuela had a large gold rush that was due mostly to the placer deposits found along the Caroni and Paragi rivers and in the area close to its border with Brazil.  Briefly the output of gold rose as high as 20 tonnes per year with most of the gold going to the Banco Central de Venezuela who in turn sold the gold abroad.  After these deposits were worked out several foreign mining companies attempted to work other gold deposits in Venezuela but were prevented from doing so by restrictive mining laws, bureaucracy and law suits brought against them. 

The best of these projects was located at Las Cristinas in south-eastern Venezuela where the Canadian Mining Company, Placer Dome.  They partnered with Corporacion Venezolana de Guyana (CVG) the Venezuelan industrial and mining company.  The partnership was plagued with constant delays and at the time low gold process until in 1999 Placer Dome threw up its hands and closed the mine even though it had the potential of producing at least 16 tonnes of gold.  In the end the government revoked the license to proceed at Las Cristinas.  


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