Barrick Signs on to Venezuela Gold Push as Oil Sinks Economy

  • World No. 1 gold miner signed letters of commitment for JV
  • Company plans to review information on mining opportunities

Barrick Gold Corp. agreed to form a joint venture in Venezuela, according to state television, as President Nicolas Maduro turns to mining as a way to boost one of the fastest-shrinking economies in the world.

The world’s biggest producer of the precious metal was among several companies to sign letters of commitment for gold-mining ventures during a ceremony held at the presidential palace in Caracas Friday. The government would take a 55 percent stake in the proposed Barrick venture, Maduro said.

“At the invitation of the government, we intend to review information pertaining to mining opportunities in the country,” Andy Lloyd, a spokesman for Toronto-based Barrick, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions.

Without providing details, Maduro said investments from the ventures would amount to $5 billion. He’s looking to mining as a way to boost the oil-dependent economy that’s been pummeled by slumping energy prices after predecessor Hugo Chavez nationalized energy and mining assets to increase state control over the economy.

Earlier this month, Gold Reserve Inc. said it will get about $770 million as part of a settlement with Venezuela for the 2008 seizure of its Brisas gold and copper project in an arrangement that depends on the country securing financing. In that arrangement, Venezuela also agreed to buy the the Spokane, Washington-based company’s mining data for $240 million and enter into a jointly owned company for a 18,000-hectare claim including the Brisas Cristinas deposit.

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