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The success of Agapov's bid to take over Venezuela's gold mining sector is a lack of sex appeal!

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VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: The Las Cristinas Saga has ALWAYS been wracked with controversy but President Hugo Chavez Frias' yesterday (Tuesday) announcement that the Venezuelan government is to entrust the exploration and xploitation of both the Las Cristinas and Las Brisas del Cuyuni gold ines in southern Bolivar State to the Russians came, doubtlessly, as a savage blow to North American speculators who have been waiting years to see the Canadian (Toronto-based) Crystallex International Corporation and USA-Spokane (Washington State) Gold Reserve begin to mine the respective plots.

Strong signals that something was more than usually wrong, went out last summer when the companies got to know that their permissions to proceed had been denied.

As usual, neither the Ministry for the Environment (MinAmb) or the Basic Industries & Mining (Mibam) Ministry were very forthcoming in public comment and, of course, wilder speculations flourished with the lack of official information despite the fact that it was known that as late as December, the necessary permissions had cleared MinAmb and Mibam and were being held in some sort of parallel universe between the heavy industry conglomerate, the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG) -- the titular owners of Las Cristinas -- and the final pen stroke of President Hugo Chavez at the Office of the President (Presidencia) in Miraflores.

The rise of the Russians became more apparent with Chavez' much-publicized visits to Russia and the intensity of relationships between Moscow and Caracas seem to have been the groundwork for a shrewd move by London-based business magnate Andre Agapov to improve his Venezuelan investment interests in a "socialist" 50/50 joint venture with the Venezuelan government to take over the almost-defunct operations of USA-Idaho-based Hecla Mining at La Camorra when the latter ground to a halt with labor union difficulties and a general lack of interest from its North American owners to resolve a multitude of problems.

Agapov's VenRusCa operations in Venezuela were suddenly thrust into the limelight with Agapov's Rusoro Mining gaining increased credence in Venezuelan mining administration eyes for its willingness to cooperate with the laborious machinery of Venezuelan government where, otherwise, North American gold mining shareholders had already been creating political fire storms with ravenous attacks on any named official on whom they could lock their mandibles.

Small wonder that minor and not-so-minor officials at a plethora of ministries were unwilling to have their names condemned to the public domain as available information virtually dried up as a direct result.

Perhaps the success of Agapov's continuing bid to take over at least half of Venezuela's gold mining sector is a lack of sex appeal!

Already, Rusoro Mining has been castigated as somehow "un-American"! Well, it is motivated by Russians but, hey, the Soviet Union and the Cold War are supposedly long gone? Perhaps not in the minds of McCarthy-residue US Republicans, the "savage capitalists" as President Chavez would say ... where outsized Stetsons only emphasize the vacuum that must exist between the ears.

Agapov's RusKaolin mine is already operational between Las Brisas and Las Cristinas

Agapov's interest, from the beginning had been on Venezuela's rich reserves of premium caolin (China Clay -- see above). which it has already brought into production at a site between Las Brisas del Cuyuni and Las Cristinas; with advanced plans for a 'ceramics city' to manufacture all sorts of products with simplified access to raw materials and decreasing imports of the same from Colombia and the United States. One could, in fact, make a case for greater profits from toilet bowls, was hand basins and dinner services than going absolutely potty over gold.

However, it's the gold that had hyped the hormones of gold seekers at Las Brisas del Cuyuni and Las Cristinas as well as a whole string of other former concessions in the Kilometer 88 region that will successively be released for joint-0ventureship as Venezuela advances in its general and rightful ambition to regain control of its own sovereign resources.

Andre Agapov -- just returned to London-England today via Frankfurt (Germany) from a flying visit to Caracas which ended just after President Hugo Chavez Frias' State of the Union address to the National Assembly (AN) Tuesday -- is heading a bid that runs out on the 20th first to buy-out Gold Reserve (Las Brisas del Cuyuni) and, given the Venezuelan government's stated intentions, with his sights set on a possible bid for Crystallex International, is a driving
force for change in Venezuela that will confidently see increased production of Venezuelan gold before the end of this year.

It's the Venezuelan government's ambition to bring gold mining on-stream as a tangible revenue source as well as to provide immediate sustainable employment for thousands of painfully unemployed miners in the southeastern Guayana region, and in this respect it is good for Venezuela's economic and political interests.

What does it means for the cadres of Gold Reserve and Crystallex groupies that have clung onto the expectancy of investment riches at the end of a Venezuelan rainbow is quite another matter.

The scenario is simple enough in itself : For Gold Reserve and Crystallex it is clear that the writing is already on the wall even if all is not yet lost! Gold Reserve investors are faced with the prospect of years of expensive litigation if they are to follow hapless GRZ president Doug Belanger's self-indulgent advice to refuse to accept Rusoro's offer to exchange virtually worthless GRZ shares for Rusoro's immediate get-to-work potential. Crystallex faces similar litigation although, God knows, they've already allegedly spent some $25 million on the ill-fated "Enrique Tejera Paris connection" which is a red rag to Chavez' revolutionary bull!

What will the future then be?

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Roy S. Carson is veteran foreign correspondent (45+ years in the business) currently editor & publisher of VHeadline Venezuela reporting on news & views from and about Venezuela in South America -- available for interviews -- call Houston (more...)
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