Spokane Journal of Business

Gold Reserve prepares response in Venezuelan mine dispute

Settlement with Venezuelan government still a possibility

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Gold Reserve Inc., the Spokane-based mine-exploration company, says it's assembling a response to an international arbitration panel's recent request asking for additional evidence in its $2.1 billion claim against the Venezuelan government over a seized mine property.

A tribunal under the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes set a deadline of Dec. 21 to receive further evidence related to valuation questions in order to make a determination of fair market value, if any, of what was called the Brisas project.

Meanwhile, the company recently has reported a third-quarter net loss of $1.7 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a loss of $5.1 million, or 9 cents a share, in the 2011 third quarter.

A three-person tribunal is overseeing arbitration proceedings concerning Gold Reserve's claim for compensation against the Venezuelan government, which seized its Brisas project in that South American country in May 2008.

Gold Reserve President Doug Belanger says a settlement in the dispute is still possible, though, and that Venezuela has recently entered into a contract with a large Chinese corporation with plans to develop and construct what's now called the Brisas-Cristinas mine as a large gold-copper complex.

The company is continuing dialogue with the Venezuelan authorities regarding a possible settlement, including the potential transfer of extensive technical data that Gold Reserve had previously compiled for developing the Brisas project, a Nov. 29 Gold Reserve press release says.

"A conservative estimate to develop the Brisas-Cristinas project without access to the company's engineering data could be seven to 10 years. With a settlement that would provide access to that data, the mine could theoretically be developed in about three to four years," the company says.

Meanwhile, Gold Reserve recently has started new exploration activities after a May agreement to be a partner in the La Tortuga project, located southwest of Guadalajara in Mexico. Gold Reserve says it entered into an option agreement with Soltoro Ltd. for the right to earn a 51 percent interest in the La Tortuga property.

Belanger adds that the company has an option to acquire another 9 percent interest in the property for up to a 60 percent ownership interest.

Additionally, the company also says it recently has completed significant debt restructuring. In that action, the company says it restructured its outstanding convertible notes.

The company also settled pending litigation related to a 2008 unsolicited takeover bid of Gold Reserve, Belanger says. In December 2008, Gold Reserve had filed an action in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which has general jurisdiction for the Province of Ontario, Canada, against Rusoro Mining Ltd. and its financial adviser, seeking damages related to the unsolicited takeover attempt.

The litigation alleged conflict of interest because the financial adviser company, Endeavour Financial International Corp., had advised both companies at the time of the takeover bid.

Gold Reserve says that this past September, a settlement was reached that included Rusoro paying $250,000 to Gold Reserve, and issuing 2.5 million common shares, and Endeavour Financial paying Gold Reserve $1.5 million in Canadian dollars.

Overall, Belanger says he is optimistic that the company has sufficient financial resources, after its debt restructuring, the litigation settlement, and the pending sale of remaining equipment it had purchased for the Brisas project that wasn't delivered because of the seizure.

Belanger says the company had bought $128 million in equipment slated for Brisas, and, "We've sold a little over $100 million." It bought the remaining pieces for about $28 million, but they have a current value of only $19 million, he says.

Additionally, he says few steps remain in the Venezuelan arbitration process, although it depends on the timing of the tribunal.

"Having three post-hearing briefs is not unusual," he adds. "Assuming this is the last, they would move to a final deliberation, hopefully sometime next year. We're hopeful it could be early 2013."

Treva Lind
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