Ramirez, whose responsibilities also include mining, said that Chavez last week approved a plan to assign more than 35,000 hectares (88,000 acres) of land in southern Bolivar state to the government-run Venezuelan Mining Corporation to develop gold mining projects. He said that Chinese and South African mining companies have expressed interest in joint ventures.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform