Empresa Mixta Ecosocialista Siembra Minera, S.A. (“Siembra Minera”)
In August 2016, we executed the Contract for the Incorporation and Administration of the Mixed Company with the government of Venezuela (the “Mixed Company Formation Document”) to form a jointly owned company and in October 2016, together with an affiliate of the government of Venezuela, we established Siembra Minera, the entity whose purpose is to develop the Siembra Minera Project. Siembra Minera is beneficially owned 55% by Corporacion Venezolana de Mineria, S.A., a Venezuelan government corporation, and 45% by Gold Reserve. Although Venezuela is not current with its obligations outlined in the Settlement Agreement, the parties retain their respective interests in Siembra Minera.
Siembra Minera holds certain gold, copper, silver and other strategic mineral rights within Bolivar State comprising approximately 18,950 hectares in an area located in the Km 88 gold mining district of southeast Bolivar State which includes the historical Brisas and Cristinas areas. The mineral rights held by Siembra Minera have a 20-year term with two 10-year extensions.
Gold Reserve, under a yet to be completed Technical Services Agreement, would provide engineering, procurement and construction services to Siembra Minera for a fee of 5% over all costs of construction and development and, thereafter, for a fee of 5% over operating costs during operations. Venezuela is obligated to use its best efforts to grant to Siembra Minera similar terms that would apply to the Siembra Minera Project in the event Venezuela enters into an agreement with a third party for the incorporation of a Mixed Company (as defined herein) to perform similar activities with terms and conditions that are more favorable than the tax and fiscal incentives contemplated in the Mixed Company Formation Document and is obligated to indemnify us and our affiliates against any future legal actions related to property ownership associated with the Siembra Minera Project.
There are significant provisions related to the formation of Siembra Minera and the development and operation of the Siembra Minera Project, as provided in the Mixed Company Formation Document, some of which are still pending completion. There are a number of pending authorizations and/or still to be completed obligations on the part of the Venezuelan government that are critical to the financing and future operation of the Siembra Minera Project.
Venezuela agreed to certain Presidential Decrees, within the legal framework of the “Orinoco Mining Arc” (created on February 24, 2016 under Presidential Decree No. 2.248 as an area for national strategic development Official Gazette No. 40.855), that will or have been issued to provide for tax and fiscal incentives for companies owned jointly with the government (“Mixed Companies”) operating in that area that include exemption from value added tax, stamp tax, municipal taxes and any taxes arising from the contribution of tangible or intangible assets, if any, to the Mixed Companies by the parties and the same cost of electricity, diesel and gasoline as that incurred by the government or related entities.
Siembra Minera is obligated to pay to the government a special advantage of 3% of gross sales and a net smelter return royalty (“NSR”) on the sale of gold, copper, silver and any other strategic minerals of 5% for the first ten years of commercial production and 6% for the next ten years. The parties also agreed to participate in the price of gold in accordance with a formula resulting in specified respective percentages based on the sales price of gold per ounce. For sales up to $1,600 per ounce, net profits will be allocated 55% to Venezuela and 45% to us. For sales greater than $1,600 per ounce, the incremental amount will be allocated 70% to Venezuela and 30% to us. For example, with sales at $1,600 and $3,500 per ounce, net profits will be allocated 55.0% − 45.0% and 60.5% − 39.5%, respectively.
Venezuela is obligated to advance $110.2 million to Siembra Minera to facilitate the early startup of the pre-operation and construction activities, but has not yet taken steps to provide such funding and Siembra Minera is obligated, with Venezuela’s support, to undertake initiatives to secure financing(s) to fund the anticipated capital costs of the Siembra Minera Project, which are estimated to be in excess of $2 billion. To date, no verifiable financing alternatives have been identified.
The Mixed Company Formation Documents provide for Siembra Minera, pursuant to Presidential Decrees or other authorizations, to be subject to an income tax rate of 14% for years one to five, 19% for years six to ten, 24% for years eleven to fifteen, 29% for years sixteen to twenty and 34% thereafter; to be authorized to export and sell concentrate and doré containing gold, copper, silver and other strategic minerals outside of Venezuela and maintain foreign currency balances associated with sales proceeds; to hold funds associated with future capital cost financings and sale of gold, copper and silver offshore in U.S. dollar accounts with dividend and profit distributions, if any, paid directly to Siembra Minera shareholders; to convert all funds into local currency at the same exchange rate offered by Venezuela to other similar entities, as required to pay Venezuela income taxes and annual operating and capital costs denominated in Bolivars for the Siembra Minera Project. As of the date of this Annual Information Form, Venezuela has not yet taken steps to formally provide such authorizations via Presidential Decree or otherwise.
On October 8, 2020, the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly approved an “anti-blockade” law, published in Special Official Gazette Nº 6.583 of October 12th, 2020 (the “Law”). The Law is reportedly part of the Maduro administration’s strategy to overcome the financial, economic and commercial consequences of U.S. Sanctions. The Law, which according to its own terms ranks as a constitutional law, was passed to provide President Maduro the tools to mitigate the effects of U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela. The Law, in part, allows the Venezuelan government to implement programs to foster investments in projects or alliances in strategic sectors, including the power to sell State assets, lower or increase State interest in mixed companies and suspend legal and sublegal norms that it considers counterproductive due to sanctions. The Law provides strict provisions of confidentiality that would exclude from public scrutiny transactions that are permitted thereunder. Members of the opposition government and academic and professional associations in Venezuela have questioned the constitutionality of the Law. Additionally, they claim that the Law will lead to a lack of transparency and accountability. It is unclear if the Law will have any current or future impact on the Company’s operations.
While it is difficult to predict, it is possible that if there were to be a change of government in Venezuela that gives control to the opposition, the new government may challenge the Maduro administration’s 2016 formation of Siembra Minera and Presidential Decree No, 2.248 which created the National Strategic Development Zone Mining Arc of the Orinoco where the Siembra Minera Project is located. The impact of recent or future actions by an opposition controlled government could adversely affect the Company’s ownership interest in Siembra Minera or its future operations in Venezuela.
Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”)
In March 2018, a technical report for the PEA of the Siembra Minera Gold Copper Project in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”) was announced. The technical report in connection with the PEA (the “Siembra Minera Technical Report”) prepared by Roscoe Postle Associates, Inc. (“RPA”), Samuel Engineering Inc. (“Samuel Engineering”), Tierra Group International, Ltd (“Tierra Group”), and AATA International, Inc. (“AATA”) is available to the public at www.sedar.com and www.sec.gov, as well as, the Company’s website at www.goldreserveinc.com.
All information contained in the PEA is as of March 16, 2018. The information and conclusions contained in the PEA do not consider the impact of Sanctions nor consider the effects of the current Venezuelan political climate, economic conditions, deteriorated infrastructure and social instability or the impact of the world-wide pandemic on Venezuela since its completion. These issues and other negative factors could adversely affect the assumptions underlying the economic analysis contained in the PEA (See Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Information Contained in our Annual Information Form).
The PEA is preliminary in nature and includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. The PEA only demonstrates potential viability and there is no certainty that the PEA will be realized, or that any production will be realized from the Siembra Minera Project. Mineral resources are not mineral reserves and do not have demonstrated economic viability. The potential viability of the mineral resources at the Siembra Minera Project have not yet been supported by a pre-feasibility or a feasibility study. The terms “mineralised material” and “material” are used in this summary to denote mineralised material above an economic cut-off grade on which the proposed mining and processing activities are designed to operate. It does not imply that mineral reserves have been estimated.
Siembra Minera Project Completed Activities
The Company completed a number of social programs to improve the health care in the Siembra Minera Project area including addressing the malaria problem with medicine and preventive measures as well as the completion of an estimated $6 million works program to build new facilities and rehabilitate existing facilities at the four largest schools, a church and recreational and sport facilities for the students and the community. The Company also established a facility to house a radio station at one school to improve local communications and generated preliminary engineering assessments for potential future upgrades to the local communities’ water supply and sewage system infrastructure.
Prior to the implementation of the Sanctions, the Company’s development activities included the following, much of which were completed prior to 2019: published the results of the PEA in accordance with NI 43-101; completed the preliminary design and engineering on the small scale Phase I oxide saprolite process plant and the Phase 2 larger hard rock process plant; completed the preliminary design work for a Phase 1 and Phase 2 Tailings Dam design; completed and obtained approval of a Venezuelan Environmental Impact Statement; subsequently received the environmental permit to affect the Area for the early works (the “Permit to Affect”); collected and transported a surface saprolite material sample to the U.S. for future metallurgical testing; validated, with the assistance of Empresa Nacional Forestal (a state owned company affiliated with the Ministry of Environment), the forest inventory for the Siembra Minera Project area; assisted with the preparation of budgets for Siembra Minera according to parameters set forth by the Venezuelan budgeting agency; obtained, the “Initiation Act”, pursuant to the Permit to Affect, allowing Siembra Minera to initiate the authorized preliminary/early works on the Siembra Minera Project; completed in March 2019 the Environmental Supervision Plan for the permitted (early or preliminary) works; hosted two community events for the granting of the Permit to Affect and the granting of the Initiation Act; worked with Mission Piar (Small Miner Program affiliated with the Ministry of Mines) to complete an initial survey and census of small miners located in the Siembra Minera Project area, which included cataloging identities, locations, infrastructure and health status; completed a feasibility study for a rock quarry in March 2019 as part of the opening of the quarry needed for the “early works” and during both Phases I and II of the Siembra Minera Project; and assisted small miner alliances, with the support of the Ministry of Mines, to obtain mining rights to property north of the Siembra Minera Project – with the purpose of relocating small miners from the Siembra Minera Project area.
Siembra Minera has no operations at this time. As a result, the Company has directly incurred cumulative costs through June 30, 2021 associated with the Siembra Minera Project, totaling approximately $21.6 million.
Siembra Minera Project Development
We have considered initial plans for various on-site activities such as site clearing, construction of a temporary camp and warehouse facilities, drilling of dewatering and development drill holes, access roads on the property, opening of the quarry for construction aggregates and initial construction activities. We have evaluated initial proposals for a drilling program in support of the overall project development activities, water management wells, and test areas where additional resource potential is evident. Various geotechnical studies as well as environmental and social studies to augment and update previous work on the property have been considered which could support the generation of a pre-feasibility study for the small and large plant and generate Environmental & Social Impact Assessments (“ESIA”) for the support of the various operating and environmental permits that will be required for the Siembra Minera Project. The next phase of the Siembra Minera Project’s development is envisioned to include detail design work for the small cyanidation plant and related facilities along with the metallurgical testing to support the metallurgical process used in the plant.
The Sanctions severely obstruct our ability to develop the Siembra Minera Project and, until such time as Sanctions are lifted, we expect our activities in Venezuela will be limited. It is unclear to management if any new Venezuelan administration or power, de jure or de facto, in the future will respect the agreements of the prior administration.