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21 May 2008

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Venezuela

Venezuela bans gold-mining in forest reserve, will not issue new open-pit permits

Venezuela banned gold mining in its Imataca Forest Reserve and said it will not issue new permits for open-pit mines anywhere in the country, according to Reuters.

"Venezuela will deny environmental permits for the open-pit mine exploitation," Environment Minister Yuviri Ortega told Reuters in an interview last week. "Neither private or public companies will for now explore Imataca's gold."

"For the moment we do not need to exploit these minerals; as the president says, we don't need diamonds or gold, or coal," she said.

Venezuela has seen a financial windfall from record-high oil prices despite stagnating production. The funds have apparently reduced the impetus to exploit the country's rich mineral deposits.

Scientists have warned that open-pit mining - often conducted by "irregular" miners - is causing ecological harm to biologically-rich forests in Venezuela.

Southern Venezuela contains part of the Guiana shield, a region characterized by exposed rock dating back to the Precambrian period some 600 million years ago. This geology, like that of parts of West Africa, Western Australia, and the Brazilian Shield, produces rich deposits of gold, diamonds, iron ore, and bauxite.

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