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April 5 (Reuters) - A World Bank tribunal has ordered Venezuela to pay damages of nearly $1.4 billion to Crystallex International Corp, a Canadian mining company, as compensation for expropriating the miner’s Las Cristinas mining project, Crystallex said on Tuesday.
The award, worth $1.386 billion, was released on Monday by the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the company said in a statement.
Venezuela’s oil and mining ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The award was not yet available on the body’s website.
Crystallex filed its arbitration request on Feb. 16, 2011 after former president Hugo Chavez’s government took over the gold project in 2008 as part of a plan to put key industries into state hands.
Las Cristinas was Crystallex’s flagship project and at the time was regarded as one of the world’s biggest undeveloped gold deposits with estimated gold reserves of 12.5 million ounces. But development was delayed for years by legal disputes and permitting hold-ups.
The award to Crystallex follows that made by the same tribunal in 2014 to another small Canadian miner, Gold Reserve, who was awarded around $750 million for the 2009 termination of its Las Brisas concession in Venezuela.
Gold Reserve and Venezuela, which is strapped for funds at a time of low oil prices, triple-digit inflation and heavy debt payments due this year, had been in a dispute over the payment until February this year when they reached a deal to jointly exploit the Brisas and Las Cristinas projects.
Crystallex “looks forward to collecting on the award on behalf of all of its stakeholders”, Chief Executive Robert Fung said in a statement. He was not immediately available for further comment.
Crystallex’s legal team was led by international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, it said. The firm was not immediately available for comment.
Last November Crystallex filed a complaint in a U.S. court, seeking to recover $2.8 billion it says it is owed from Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA and its U.S. subsidiary. (Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver and Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Editing by Bernard Orr and Marguerita Choy)