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Venezuela to develop Las Cristinas mine with China

A local miner uses a wooden bowl and mercury to pan for gold near at the village of Las Cristinas in Venezuela.

Henry Romero/REUTERS

Venezuela will develop its huge Las Cristinas gold project in partnership with Chinese state investment company CITIC, President Hugo Chavez announced on Friday.

The government last year cancelled Canadian company Crystallex International Corp.'s permit to develop the long-troubled mine project south of the Orinoco river.

Russian-Canadian miner Rusoro Mining Ltd. had hoped to partner with Venezuela in what could be Latin America's largest gold deposit. Las Cristinas has estimated reserves of 17 million ounces.

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In a meeting with Chinese investors, Mr. Chavez said he was firming "an agreement with CITIC for the joint development of Las Cristinas." He gave no more details.

Mr. Chavez, who was speaking at his last meeting before flying to Cuba for cancer treatment, has brought Venezuela ever closer to China in business and political ties during his 13-year rule of the South American OPEC member.

Development of the Las Cristinas mine, near a town bearing the name of the mythical golden city of El Dorado, has dragged for decades due to a mixture of bureaucratic, political and financing issues.

Some locals say the mine is cursed.

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