CARACAS, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Wednesday he would nationalize gold mining to boost the country's international reserves.
Chavez made the announcement during a phone call aired by state television. He also called on the military to help crack down on the illegal mining and gold smuggling.
"We are going to take over the gold sector because there is anarchy in that area. In Bolivar, a state in the south of the country, we have one of the largest reserves of gold, bauxite and iron in the world," he said.
"We are going to nationalize the exploration and mining of gold and convert it into international reserves since gold continues to increase in value," he said, adding that Venezuela has nearly 12 billion U.S. dollars in gold reserves.
Chavez said the move would ensure the country's financial security given the international market's volatility.
Venezuela's region of Las Cristinas has one of the largest gold reserves in the world. In Bolivar, there are an estimated 17 million ounces of unexploited gold.
To protect domestic mineral production, the country has lowered the amount of gold that may be exported from 50 to 30 percent of the total production.