Venezuela Shuts Door on New Gold Mines

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Mineral-laden Venezuela shut the door to new gold projects and threatened other mining and logging concessions in a step by leftist President Hugo Chavez to tighten control of natural resources.

Mineral-laden Venezuela on Thursday shut the door to new gold projects and threatened other mining and logging concessions in a step by leftist President Hugo Chavez to tighten control of natural resources.

Environment Minister Yuviri Ortega said the South American country will not give permits for any open-pit mines and will not allow companies to look for gold in its vast Imataca Forest Reserve.

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

Citing ecological damage, Ortega said the government was also revising all its mining and timber concessions.

OPEC member Venezuela is one of the world's top oil exporters. With its coffers bulging from record crude prices, it feels it does not need to risk further harming its environment with more mining and logging.

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