Published: Sunday 30 November 1997

The Venezuelan government has decided against granting new mining concessions in the disputed Imataca forest reserve, one of the prime gold and diamond mining areas in the country. It will now await the decision of the Supreme Court in this regard. "It is a temporary and a precautionary measure," said Angel Franco of the ministry of energy and mining, adding that around 90 applications for new mining concessions would be put on hold.

Three lawsuits were brought before the Supreme Court earlier this year, including one by the natives of Imataca, challenging a zoning ordinance that permits mining exploration in nearly half of the 3.7 hectare reserve. However, Franco has said that the 257 existing concessions in the reserve would not be affected by the ban. Venezuela is pushing to open its mining sector to foreign investors but it continues to be plagued by legal uncertainties.

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