What do Doug Belanger, President of embattled mining company Gold Reserve and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? The are both lead performers in Judgement Day. For Schwarzenegger, Judgement Day was the name of the second film in the Terminator franchise. For Belanger, Judgement Day is the ongoing saga associated with the Brisas deposit in Venezuela.
A clip from Terminator 2 pretty much sums up the Brisas story. Picture teen actor Edward Furlong as Hugo Chávez and Belanger as Schwarzenegger: CLICK HERE.
MiningFeeds featured Gold Reserve (Stock Profile – AMEX:GRZ & TSX-V:GRZ) in the August, 2011 article, “Gold Reserve Makes $2.1 Billion Claim Against Venezuela”. For the backstory – CLICK HERE. In its claim (using US$950 per ounce gold) Gold Reserve valued its damages at $2.1 billion, equivalent to over $30 a share. Gold Reserve’s shares are currently trading at $3.40, up a $1 per share over the past year.
The oral hearings were concluded on February 17, 2012 in Washington, D.C. and the company has since filed two additional post hearing briefs and is in the process of filing a third at the request of the tribunal. The tribunal consists of three judges who are actively working on the case.
The Venezuelan government is currently battling about 20 post-nationalization arbitration cases and has previously settled a number of ICSID claims against it including, most recently in March, 2012 with Williams Companies and Exterran for the 2009 nationalization of assets including a major gas injection project.
Prior to a judgement by the World Bank ICSID tribunal, Venezuela reached an agreement of $420 million with the companies. Williams and Exterran were seeking $1.2 billion in damages.
According to VenezuelaAnalysis.com, Hugo Chávez expressed his desire to “get out” of the ICSID. Chávez states, “The verdicts of the ICSID do not respect national laws or jurisprudence, neither can they be appealed. The ICSID makes decisions on a whim without a unifying system of jurisprudence. The ICSID systematically favours the transnationals.”
Withdrawal from ICSID does not offer any immediate benefits to Venezuela. These pending cases are in no way affected by Venezuela’s denunciation of the ICSID Convention.
However, it may be Chávez himself that “gets out”. Venezuelan national elections are set for October 7th, 2012 and this time, Chávez has some real competition in Henrique Capriles. Capriles’s youth, energy, and record of competent governance in Venezuelan’s state of Miranda make him a credible challenger to Chávez particularly when factoring in Chávez recent health issues. Capriles has been critical of Chávez’s nationalization policies.
There are other issues at hand which may encourage Venezuela to settle with Gold Reserve. Namely, the estimated $230 million the company invested in engineering, metallurgical, and drilling data. The company is sitting on full feasibility reports for Brisas that would take between 5 and 7 years to reproduce.
With judgement day likely “months” away, Gold Reserve is in regular communication with the defendants in the case. According to Gold Reserve’s president, Doug Belanger, “We are now communicating with Venezuela’s newly formed Ministry of Oil and Mines. The new ministry is headed by Rafael Ramirez, who is also president of the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), one of the world’s largest oil companies. Ramirez is probably the second most powerful person in Venezuela. Although we believe in the merits of our case we are not opposed to a settlement should one be deemed acceptable by our board.”