Oil and Gas

Canada's Guyana Goldfields says notified of possible Venezuela claim

GEORGETOWN, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Canadian-based mining company Guyana Goldfields Inc has said it has received an “unfounded” notification of possible legal action by Venezuela over its operations in Guyana, a complaint linked to Venezuela’s territorial claim over an area where it operates.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro this year revived his country’s claim to more than half of neighboring Guyana’s territory following an oil discovery off the coast of that area, part of a dispute Guyana says was resolved in 1899.

“Guyana Goldfields Inc. ... recently received an unfounded notification of a possible legal claim from Venezuela,” the company said in a statement.

“The Venezuela-Guyana border dispute was resolved and agreed upon by all parties under the 1899 Arbitration Agreement and any claims made outside of such agreement violate international law.”

A spokesman for the Toronto-based company said she was not able to provide a copy of the letter from Venezuelan authorities.

An official at Venezuela’s foreign ministry said nobody was available to comment on the issue.

Guyana’s official Government News Agency said on Thursday Venezuela’s ambassador to Canada had issued a warning letter to the company informing them mining operation in Guyana was “infringing on the territorial sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Addressing the subject in a speech to parliament, Guyanese President David Granger called for Venezuela to stop meddling.

“Venezuela, therefore, must desist from hindering our economic development in an obtrusive and obstructive manner that is tantamount to interference in our internal affairs,” he said.

Guyana Goldfields has been developing the Aurora mine in Guyana since 1996. It announced its first gold production in August and said it expects to produce between 30,000 ounces and 50,000 ounces of gold in 2015, which would make it one of Guyana’s main gold mines.

Venezuela and Guyana in September agreed to restore their respective ambassadors in the wake of a spat sparked by Exxon Mobil Corp’s discovery of oil off the coast of the region known as the Essequibo.

A sparsely populated region of thick jungle, the Essequibo encompasses an area equivalent to around two-thirds of Guyanese territory. It functions in practice as part of Guyana and shows little discernible trace of Venezuelan cultural influence. (Writing by Brian Ellsworth Editing by W Simon)