Venezuela and China signed an agreement to develop together one of the world's biggest gold mines, with plans to exploit both the yellow metal and cooper there.
President Hugo Chavez made the announcement on Friday after meeting at the Miraflores presidential palace with a delegation from China's state-run International Trust and Investment Corp. (CITIC) headed by its president, Chang Zhenming, about the deal to develop Las Cristinas mine in southern Venezuela.
Last year, the Canadian firm Crystallex sought international arbitration against Venezuela after Caracas canceled its contract to develop Las Cristinas. Crystallex obtained the concession in 2002.
Chavez, whose statement was carried on official VTV television, said that a second agreement was reached to produce a mineral deposits map for Venezuela, which he called a "high-caliber project" for the country's development.
Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez later said the map was a five-year project.
Ramirez also said that Venezuela has contracts with CITIC to build 30,000 homes -- 24,000 of which are already being built -- as part of an ambitious government plan to make a dent in the country's desperate lack of housing.
Beijing has extended some $30 billion in credit to Caracas over the past years. Caracas in turn sells some 640,000 barrels of oil a day to China, of which 264,000 are destined to pay debt.