Venezuela says signs $5.5 bln mining deals with companies

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro smiles while speaking during a meeting with representatives of the mining sector in Caracas, Venezuela, August 26, 2016, in this handout provided by Miraflores Palace. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has signed over $5.5 billion in mining deals with companies including Canada's Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO and China's Shandong Gold, President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday.

Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, said in a statement that “at the invitation of the government, we intend to review information pertaining to mining opportunities in the country.”

A spokesman for the Toronto-based company did not respond to questions about spending or development plans in the country.

“Today we are signing investments and letters of commitment for projects for over $5.5 billion,” said Maduro in a televised meeting with foreign mining executives.

The deals are part of a plan to ease the OPEC nation’s grave economic crisis that has caused food shortages and supermarket riots.

Earlier this month, Maduro said Venezuela had struck $4.5 billion in mining deals with foreign and domestic companies. He also said that he expected $20 billion in mining investment contracts to be signed in coming days.

It was unclear if the $5.5 billion were part of the broader $20 billion investments.

Reporting by Diego Ore and Susan Taylor in Toronto, writing by Alexandra Ulmer; editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Bernard Orr