Venezuela

VenezuelaVENEZUELA (EN: Venezuela; RU: Венесуэла), Republic of Venezuela (Republica de Venezuela) is the country at the north of the South America. Venezuela is washed at the north by the Caribbean sea (the length of the coastline is more than 2400 kilometres), and by the Atlantic ocean (490 kilometres). Venezuela borders Colombia to the west and south-west, Brazil to the south and south-east, and Guyana to the east. The area is 916.4 thousand square kilometres. The population is 14.6 million persons (1981). The capital city is the Caracas city. In the administrative sense, Venezuela is divided into the Federal district, 20 states, 2 federal territories, and federal properties (72 islands within the Caribbean sea). The official language is the Spanish language. The monetary unit is Bolívar. Venezuela is the member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of the Organization of the American States (OAS), of the Latin American Economic System (SELA), of the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), of the Inter-American Nuclear Energy Commission (IANEC), of the Andean and Amazonian regional groups, and of other organizations.

The general characteristic of the economy. Venezuela is one of the most developed countries within the Latin America, with the highest within the region level of the external gross national product per capita (2457.5 US dollars during the 1980, in terms of the 1980 prices). There is clearly expressed the petroleum specialization of the economy. The external gross product of the country during the 1980 amounted to 37 billion dollars (in terms of the 1980 prices), of which the agriculture accounted for 6.6%, the industry accounted for 27%, the construction accounted for 6.4%, the transport accounted for 12.3%, the trade and finances accounted for 23.1%, and other services accounted for 24.6%. The structure of the branches of the industry is (%): the mining-extracting industry is 24.5, the processing industry is 65.9, the electrical energetic industry is 9.6. One of the rapidly developing sectors of the economy is the electrical energetic industry. The structure of the fuel and energy balance is (%): the petroleum is 42, the natural gas is 42, the hydraulic energy is 12, the coal is less than 1, the vegetation fuel is 3. In terms of the consumption of the electric energy (more than 2230 kilowatt-hours per 1 person), Venezuela holds the 1st place within the Latin America. The total production of the electric energy is approximately 31 billion kilowatt-hours (1979). The major type of the transport is the automotive transport (86% of the quantity of the cargo-passenger transportations). The length of the highway roads (1978) is approximately 60 thousand kilometres, including 24 thousand kilometres with the hard pavement; the length of the railway (1979) is 409 kilometres. The major sea ports for the export of the useful minerals are: Amuay, La Salina, Puerto Miranda, Punta Cardon, Puerto La Cruz, Maracaibo, Puerto Ordaz, and others. The navigable rivers are Orinoco, Apure, Arauca. There exists the extensive network of the petroleum and gas pipelines.

The nature. Within the relief of Venezuela, there are distinguished several regions: at the north of the country, there stretch themselves the chains of the Caribbean Andes; at the north-west, there are situated the north-eastern spurs of the Andes, namely, the Serranía del Perijá (the height is up to 3750 metres), and the Cordillera de Mérida (the Bolívar mountain, 5007 metres), which are framing the deep depression of the lowland and the lake Maracaibo; within the centre, there are situated the plains of the Orinoco (the so-named Llanos del Orinoco); at the south-east, there is situated the Guiana plateau.

The climate is mostly hot sub-equatorial, with rainy summer and dry winter, while at the south-west, the climate is equatorial humid. The average monthly temperatures are approximately 27 degrees Celsius. The atmospheric precipitation is 280 millimetres per year at the north-west, 750-1200 millimetres at the centre, 2000 millimetres at the south-east, and 3000 millimetres at the south-west.

The main river is Orinoco; its headwaters and right tributaries (Ventuari, Caura, Caroni, and others) have rapids, and form many large waterfalls (including the highest waterfall within the world, namely, the Angel falls, 1054 metres). Forests occupy approximately 50% of the territory, while savannas and dry woodlands occupy the remaining territory.

The geological structure. On the territory of Venezuela, they distinguish several structural elements: the Guiana shield, the Venezuelan foredeep, and the eastern spurs of the Andean folded system, namely, the Serranía del Perijá ridge, to which there adjoins the Cordillera de Mérida ridge. Between the latter two uplifts, there has emerged during the Cretaceous time the Maracaibo intermountain depression, which is filled with the marine sandstones and schists of the Cretaceous, and with the continental and marine coal-bearing depositions of the Cenozoic, which are containing the large reservoirs of petroleum and gas. Within the limits of the Guiana shield, to the south of the Orinoco river, there emerge onto the surface the Archean gneisses, ferruginous quartzites, and greenstone volcanic rocks, which are unconformably overlain by the sandstones of the tops of the Lower Proterozoic (the Roraima series), which have been breached by the sills and dikes of dolerites. These formations form the highest part of the Guiana highland. To the north of the Orinoco river, on the pre-Cambrian formations, there lie the Meso-Cenozoic depositions of the cratonic cover. The ridges of the Andes are formed with the strongly dislocated argillaceous shales and sandstones of the Lower Paleozoic, with the volcanogenic strata since the Carboniferous till the Triassic, with the sandstones and limestones of the Cretaceous, which have been breached by the Paleozoic and Paleogene granites. The coastal ridges have yet more complex structure, and are characterized by the thrust faults and covers, which are directed to the south. They are formed mostly with the rocks of the Upper Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Paleogene.

(Table # 1) The reserves of the major useful minerals (1981)
The useful mineral The total reserves The content of the useful component, %
Petroleum (1), million tonnes 2766 -
Gas (1), billion cubic metres 1250 -
Coal, million tonnes 1700 -
Iron ores (2), million tonnes 2300 50
Nickel ores (3), thousand tonnes 630 1.66
Bauxites, million tonnes 10 40-60
Copper ores (3), thousand tonnes 300 2-3
Lead ores (3), thousand tonnes 200 7
Zinc ores (3), thousand tonnes 800 26
(1) Industrial, (2) Proven and probable, (3) In terms of metal.

The useful minerals. Within the bowels of Venezuela, there are concentrated the large reserves of petroleum, natural gas, and iron ores; there have been explored the deposits with the ores of nickel, cobalt, copper, polymetals, and there are also known the deposits with the mineral coal, bauxites, sulfur, asbestos, phosphorites, and diamonds (see the Table # 1). In terms of the reserves of petroleum, Venezuela holds the 2nd place within the Latin America. There have been discovered within the country 253 petroleum fields and 9 gas fields (1981). There are known 5 petroleum-and-gas-bearing basins, the largest basin in terms of the reserves is the Maracaibo petroleum-and-gas-bearing basin. There have been discovered within its limits 64 petroleum fields, including the unique Bolívar coastal-marine zone of the petroleum and gas accumulation. Another large petroleum-and-gas-bearing basin, namely, the Orinoco basin (25% of the reserves of petroleum, and 35% of the reserves of gas), is situated at the east of the country, where there are petroleum-and-gas-bearing the depositions of the Oligocene-Miocene and of the Pliocene. There have been discovered within this basin 172 petroleum fields and 4 gas fields. The largest petroleum fields are: Oficina (the initial proven reserves are 169 million tonnes), Mate (154 million tonnes), and Guara (124 million tonnes). At the south of the Orinoco basin, there stretches itself the zone of distribution of the heavy viscous petroleums, and of the bituminous sands (the content of S is 4%, of Ni is 0.003%-0.01%, of V is 0.01%-0.05%), which is having the length of approximately 700 kilometres, and the width of approximately 600 kilometres. The recoverable petroleum reserves within the zone are estimated at 90 billion tonnes.

The commercial clusters of coal are concentrated mostly at the eastern slopes of the Serranía del Perijá ridge within the Zulia state within the El Paso Diablo region (the Cachiri, Socui, and Guasare deposits), where the total reserves amount to 300 million tonnes, and also within the Táchira state (the Lobatera deposit), and within the Anzoátegui state (the Naricual deposit).

In terms of the reserves of the iron ores, Venezuela holds the 2nd place within the Latin America. The sedimentary-metamorphogenic deposits are confined to the Archean ferruginous quartzites (itabirites). The largest deposits are situated within the basin of the Caroni river (Cerro Bolívar, the reserves are 700 million tonnes; San Isidro, 300 million tonnes; Altamira and El Pao, 200 million tonnes; Maria Luisa, 150 million tonnes). At the east, there exists the small Upata manganese deposit (the Bolívar state).

To the south of the Caracas city (the Miranda and Cojedes states), there are associated with the weathering crust of the hyperbasic rocks the deposits with the silicate nickel ores (Loma del Erro and Tinaquillo, within the ores of which there is also contained the significant quantity of cobalt). During the 1975, on the right bank of the Orinoco river, within the Bolívar state, there has been discovered the Pijiguaos deposit with the high-quality bauxites, with the proven reserves of 200 million tonnes, and with the forecasted reserves of more than 500 million tonnes (the content of Al2O3 compound is 60%). There exist the bedrock gold deposits, and the placer gold deposits; there are most known the veinous gold deposits of the El Callao city, El Manteco city, and El Dorado city (here also exist the placers). There are known the placer deposits with ilmenite (of the Caroni river, Ventuari river, Caura river, and Cuyuni river), with the promising reserves of more than 25 million tonnes. The small deposits with the lead-zinc ores (there is the most significant the Bailadores deposit, the total reserves of the ores are approximately 3 million tonnes) are situated to the east of the Mucuchachi city.

At the north of the country, within the carbonate depositions of the Miocene, there are known, and are being partly developed, the deposits with phosphorite, for example, the total resources within the Falcón basin (the Riesito and other deposits) are estimated at 200-300 million tonnes, with the content of phosphorus pentoxide of 17-35%. Within the drainage basins of the upper and middle reaches of the Caroni river (the San Pedro, Santa Elena, and Ikabaru regions), there are known the placer deposits with diamonds (there is being developed the Guaniamo deposit), while within the Yaracuy state, there have been identified the deposits with talc, and within the Falcón state, there have been identified the deposits with dolomites.

The mining industry. The historical outline. During the pre-Columbian period, there was conducted in small quantities, using the artisanal method, the extraction of gold from placers. During the 16th century, they have started to supply into Spain the petroleum in the non-significant quantities, which was used for the healing purposes, and for the repair of the ships. The development of the deposits with the useful minerals in the relatively large quantities has started itself during the start of the 17th century. Later, there have started to emerge the industrial mining-extracting enterprises. During the 1830, there has been commissioned the underground mine at the El Callao gold ore deposit. During the 1832, there has started the work the underground mine at the Aroa copper ore deposit (the initial name was Cocorote) within the Yaracuy state, which was operating during 100 years with pauses. Since the 1848, there has started itself the development of the Naricual coal deposit. Approximately since the 1850, there was extracted episodically the iron ore to the south-east of the Ciudad Bolívar city. During the 1885, within Venezuela, there have been uncovered diamonds, the regular extraction of which (mostly by prospectors) has started itself during the 20th century. The establishment of the mining industry is associated with the mastering of the petroleum fields. During the 1913, there has been uncovered the first within the country petroleum field within the Sucre state, and during the 1917, there has started itself the industrial operation of the Mene Grande field, which has been discovered during the 1914 within the Maracaibo basin (the Zulia state). The borehole, which has been drilled during the 1926 within the water area of the Lake Maracaibo, has established the start of the operation for the unique Lagunillas field (2615 active boreholes, 1132 of them are gushing). During the 1928, there has been explored the Quiriquire field at the east of the country within the Guarico state, and there has started itself the mastering of the new petroleum bearing Orinoco basin, which is holding the 2nd place after the Maracaibo basin. During the 1947, there has been identified the petroleum bearing property within the Apure basin.

Since the 1950, with the mastering of the Cerro Bolívar and El Pao deposits, there has started to rapidly develop itself the iron ore industry within Venezuela. The extraction of the ore, from 0.5 million tonnes during the first year of operation, by 1954, has increased itself to 5.4 million tonnes; the country has taken the 1st place within the Latin America, and preserved this place till the 1964 (since the 1964, Brazil holds the 1st place).

The general characteristic. The mining industry provides approximately 7% of the external gross product, and approximately 95% of the foreign currency earnings, although there are employed within this industry less than 3% of the economically active population within the country. Venezuela holds the 2nd place among the countries within the Latin America, after Mexico, in terms of the value of the produce from the mining industry. Within the structure of this branch of industry, 98.3% are accounted for the fuel industry.

After the nationalization of the iron ore (1975) and petroleum (1976) branches of the industry, there has aquired the important role within the economy the governmental sector: it controls 97% of the entire extraction of the useful minerals. However, there preserves itself the technological dependence on the foreign, especially American monopolies. The major centres of extraction are situated within the Maracaibo region, and within the Anzoátegui state at the east of the country (petroleum), an also within the basin of the Caroni river (iron ore) (see the map, and the Table # 2).

The further prospects for the development of the mining industry are associated with the increase of the extraction of petroleum, iron ore (mainly at the working mines), coal, nickel ores, and bauxites.

More than 85% of the produce of the mining industry is exported, prevalently into the USA, and into the countries of the Western Europe. The internal consumption of the non-ferrous metals (copper, lead, zinc, and others), the ores of which are not extracted within Venezuela, is provided at the expense of the import.

The petroleum industry. The operation of the petroleum reservoirs within Venezuela is conducted in significant quantities since the 1917, with the discovery of the large fields within the the Lake Maracaibo region. Since the time of the birth of the petroleum industry, Venezuela has fallen under the control of the foreign monopolies, mostly of the American monopolies. By the middle of the 30-ies, Venezuela has achieved the 1st place within the world in terms of the quantity of the export of this useful mineral (practically the entire quantity of the export during this period was directed into the USA). Since the start of the 70-ies, the level of the extraction has started to decrease itself. During the 1980, Venezuela held the 4th place in the extraction of petroleum among the industrially developed capitalistic and developing countries. The major causes for the decrease of the extraction are the organizational restructuring of the petroleum industry, and the desire of the government of Venezuela to preserve to the certain degree the reserves of petroleum and associated gas. During the 1976, the petroleum industry has been nationalized, and there has been formed the "Petróleos de Venezuela" governmental petroleum and gas company with four daughter companies.

At the end of the 70-ies, there were operated within Venezuela approximately 150 fields. The most significant is the Bolívar group of the fields. Three petroleum fields of the Bolívar group yield approximately 50% of the petroleum, which is extracted, including 24% from the Lagunillas field. The largest petroleum-extracting region of Venezuela is the Lake Maracaibo (approximately 80% of the total extraction throughout the country). The extraction of the petroleum with the medium and high density is conducted mostly from the shallow-embedded (approximately 900 metres) depositions of sandstone, using the fixed platforms, which are often interconnected by the overpasses into the unified complexes. The quantity of the gushing boreholes (1981) is more than 2 thousand, the quantity of the mechanized boreholes is more than 11.5 thousand. For the mechanized extraction of petroleum, there are mostly used the rod pumps. In the individual cases, there is conducted the gas-lift operation (the working agent is the petroleum gas). With the help of the artificial maintenance of the layer pressure, there are extracted more than 50% of the petroleum. At the 10 fields, in order to improve the effectiveness for the displacement of petroleum, they use the methods of the thermal action onto the layer (the injection of steam). For the transportation of petroleum from the fields to the petroleum depots for the transshipment, there has been constructed within Venezuela the network of the pipelines, which is divided into the western and eastern parts. The total length of the first network is approximately 1900 kilometres, the throughput capacity is approximately 800 thousand tonnes per day; the corresponding indicators of the second network are approximately 2700 kilometres, and approximately 400 thousand tonnes per day.

The productive capacity of the 12 petroleum processing plants within Venezuela at the start of the 1981 was approximately 67 million tonnes (13 million tonnes at the start of the 1950, and 44 million tonnes at the start of the 1960). The export of petroleum during the 1980 has amounted to 66 million tonnes, the export of the petroleum products has amounted to 27 million tonnes, which provides 95% of the budgetary revenues. The deep-water ports of Venezuela, which are capable to receive the supertankers, are the Puerto La Cruz, Amuay, and others. The storage capacity of the petroleum depots within the first two ports is approximately 100-200 thousand tonnes (1980).

There is considered to be of great significance the development of the fields with the high-viscosity sulfurous (3.5%-4%) petroleums at the south of the Orinoco basin. By the 1985, there is expected to extract here every day 20 thousand tonnes of petroleum, and by the 2000, to extract 160 thousand tonnes of petroleum, using the method of the displacement of this petroleum by steam, which would increase the ratio of the petroleum recovery from 8% to 20%-25%.

The extraction of gas. During the 1971, the government of Venezuela has established the control over the extraction and usage of the natural gas. During the start of the 80-ies, the gas-extracting branch of the industry has no independent economic significance (all gas is extracted along the way with petroleum), despite the fact, that, in terms of the marketable extraction of gas, Venezuela holds the 2nd place within the Latin America, and the 10th place among the industrially developed capitalistic and developing countries. Almost entire extraction of gas is controlled by the "Petróleos de Venezuela" governmental company. Natural gas is extracted mostly along the way at the Lagunillas, Bachaquero, Tía Juana, Boscán, Cabimas, Oficina, and other fields. The share of the marketable product, which was used within the industry during the 1980, was 47%; approximately 10% (38% during the 1970) of the gas, which is being extracted, is burned within the flares, and the remaining part is injected into the boreholes for the maintenance of the pressure within the petroleum layers.

The iron ore industry. The industrial development of the deposits with the iron ore within Venezuela is conducted since the 1950. The maximal level of the annual extraction is 26 million tonnes (1974). The inflow of the monetary resources from the export of the iron ore amounts to approximately 4% of all the foreign commercial revenues. The entire extraction of the ore is conducted using the opencast method: the "Cerro Bolívar", "El Pao", "San Isidro", and "Altamira" open pit mines are situated within the drainage basin of the Caroni river (the tributary of the Orinoco river). Since the start of the 80-ies, there provides more than 93% of the iron ore, which is extracted within the country, the "Ferrominera del Orinoco" company, which comprises the two subsidiaries: the "Piar" subsidiary (approximately 71% of the national extraction), with the Altamira (the extraction is conducted with pauses) and Cerro Bolívar deposits; the "Pao" subsidiary (approximately 22% of the extraction), with the El Pao deposit. The largest open pit mine is "Cerro Bolívar", with the productive capacity of more than 10 million tonnes of the ore per year. These open pit mines are characterized by the small thickness of the overburden. The separation of the ore from the massif is performed with the help of the drilling-blasting works, then the ore is loaded by the power shovels onto the automotive dump trucks with the load lifting capacity of up to 100 tonnes; the ore, which is later reloaded into the railway wagons with the bottom unloading, is transported from the "El Pao" open pit mine into the Palua river port, and is transported from the remaining open pit mines into the Puerto Ordaz city into the beneficiation plants. The major part of the produce from the iron ore industry is exported in the non-processed form; the export of the ore during the end of the 70-ies has exceeded 12 million tonnes, of which 50% was directed into the USA, and 32% was directed into the countries of the Western Europe.

The diamond-extracting industry. In terms of the extraction of diamonds, Venezuela holds the 1st place within the Latin America. During the entire time of the operation (till the 1980 inclusive) there have been extracted within Venezuela more than 11 million carats; the maximal quantity during the 1974 has been 1249 thousand carats. The major region for the extraction of diamonds is located within the drainage basin of the Caroni river (the Bolívar state). There are being developed exclusively the placers, which are containing 0.5 (sometimes up to 12) carats of diamonds per 1 cubic metre of the sands on average. The operational works are conducted prevalently by the small entrepreneurs and prospectors according to the licenses for the production; the labour is practically non-mechanized. The diamonds from Venezuela distinguish themselves with the good quality; approximately 35% of them belong to the jewellery type.

(Table # 2) The extraction of the major types of the mineral raw materials
The mineral raw material 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980
Petroleum, million tonnes 26.2 80 148.8 193.2 108.4
Natural gas, billion cubic metres 0.5 1.1 4.6 9.9 14.2
Coal, million tonnes 0.007(2) 0.025 0.035 0.04 0.1
Iron ores, million tonnes - 0.5 19.5 22.1 14.9
Gold ores (1), tonnes 4.5 1.1 1.4 0.7 0.6
Diamonds, thousand carats - 60 71 509 825
(1) In terms of the metal, which is being extracted, (2) The data are from the 1937.

The extraction of the other useful minerals. In small quantities, there is conducted within Venezuela the development of the coal depositions. The extraction of the coal is less than 100 thousand tonnes per year. Of these quantities, the Lobatera deposit accounts for 60% of the total quantity, and the Naricual deposit accounts for 40% of the total quantity. There has been created by the government the "Carbones del Zulia" governmental company for the development of the coal deposit within the El Paso Diablo region (the Zulia state), with the prospect for the increase of the extraction after the 1985 to 10 million tonnes per year. There is planned the operation of the Loma del Erro deposit with the nickel ores (20 thousand tonnes of nickel per year). There has been started the preparation for the mastering of the Pijiguaos bauxite deposit. Despite the absence of the own bauxite-extracting branch of the industry, Venezuela, using the good provision with energy, strongly develops the aluminium industry, intending to switch its material supply during the future from the imported raw materials to the raw materials of the fatherland origin. Within the Ciudad Guayana city, besides the aluminium smelting plant of the "Aluminium del Caroni, S. A." Venezuelan-American company (with the productive capacity of 100 thousand tonnes per year), which is acting on the equal footing since the 1967, there has been commissioned during the 1979 the second plant (with the designed productive capacity of 280 thousand tonnes) of the "Industria Venezolana de Aluminio" joint company with the shared capital of Venezuela (60%) and Japan (20%). The "Interalumina" company with the participation of Venezuela, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, has started within the same place the construction (the completion is expected during the 1983) of the alumina processing plant with the productive capacity of 1.5 million tonnes.

The geological service. The scientific institutions. The training of the cadres. The publishing. The geological service within Venezuela is performed by the Ministry for the Energetic Industry and the Mining-Extracting Industry (it has been created during the 1936), within the structure of which there exist the geological (prospecting and exploratory works) and mining (the geological estimation of deposits, and the organization of their operation) administrations.

The scientific researches in the field of geology and mining craft are conducted within the Academy of Sciences. There train the mining-geological cadres the Universities within the Caracas city (has been founded during the 1725), and the Maracaibo city (1891), within the Schools of the petroleum machinery within the Anzoátegui and Maracaibo cities, and also within the School of the Engineering Geology and Mining Craft within the Bolívar city, and so on.