SAN JUAN – Australia’s Troy Resources Limited has poured the first gold bar at a mine in the disputed Essequibo region, which is administered by Guyana but claimed by Venezuela, the Guyanese government said Wednesday.
The company “has outdone itself in fulfilling its obligations” in connection with the $100 million project in the Puruni area, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission Chairman Clinton Williams said.
The plant is currently operating at 40-50 percent of its nominal capacity.
Troy’s project is the second-largest gold mine in western Guyana after the Aurora mine, which began operations in September.
The Troy mine is expected to produce up to 90,000 ounces of gold per year.
Essequibo is a resource-rich area of 167,839 sq. kilometers (64,800 sq. miles).
An arbitration panel awarded the territory to Guyana, then still a British colony, in 1899, but more than 60 years later, the U.S. government provided Venezuela with information indicating that the panel’s decision was the result of favoritism.
Based on that information, Venezuela secured a UN resolution calling for negotiations over the status of Essequibo.
The long-simmering boundary dispute took on new urgency May 20, when a subsidiary of U.S.-based ExxonMobil announced the discovery of a significant oil deposit in the coastal waters of Essequibo.
A week later, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree asserting his country’s sovereignty over those waters.