Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government will take over and nationalize La Cristinas, the biggest gold mine in the country owned by Canada's Crystallex, Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Wednesday.
The move is part of leftist Chavez's socialist agenda that calls for nationalizing Venezuela's natural resources. Over the past year, he has taken over the electricity, oil, steelmaking, cement and telephone enterprises
"This mine will be seized and managed by a state administration," Sanz said in a statement.
The Cristinas mine, located in southeastern Bolivar state, is estimated to hold 16.9 million ounces of gold, in proven and potential reserves of the precious metal, according to Crystallex data.
Since the start of the year, Venezuela has been withholding environmental permits that allow private companies to extract gold, in lieu of a law that will establish joint ventures with foreign companies with majority stakes by the Venezuelan state.
Copyright 2008 AFP