CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Chinese and Venezuelan officials signed an agreement Friday to jointly develop one of the world's largest gold mines.
The agreement to develop Las Cristinas gold mine was signed by officials of the Venezuelan government and the Chinese company China International Trust and Investment Corp., or Citic. The mine in southern Bolivar state has been estimated to hold about 17 million ounces of gold.
President Hugo Chavez called it an agreement to begin exploiting both gold and copper deposits at the mine. He called Las Cristinas "one of the biggest reservoirs of gold that exists _ not only in Venezuela, not only in Latin America, but in the world."
Officials didn't discuss financial details of the agreement but said it specifies engineering, construction and processing of the gold and copper. Chavez said officials also signed an agreement to produce a map of mineral deposits in the South American country.
He announced the deals after a meeting with Chinese officials at the presidential palace. Chavez said they also agreed to deepen cooperation in Venezuela's oil industry.
China's ties with Venezuela have grown rapidly in recent years. China also has become the country's biggest creditor, offering Chavez's government more than $36 billion in loans, which are being paid off largely with increasing oil shipments.
Last year, Toronto-based Crystallex International Corp. said it sought international arbitration after Venezuela rescinded its contract to develop Las Cristinas mine. The company said it had appealed to a World Bank arbitration body, claiming it was due $3.8 billion in compensation.
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