Natural resources, energy and environment
Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in
the world. Oil is the main natural resource, but there
is also plenty of natural gas and coal. In addition,
there are large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold,
silver, copper, zinc, phosphorus, nickel, uranium, lead,
titanium, carbon and diamonds.
The government has made efforts to strengthen mining
to become less dependent on oil. In the 1990s, mining
interests were sold to foreign companies, mainly North
American companies. Since the turn of the millennium,
companies in the industry have instead been
nationalized. Today, the state controls most of the
mineral resources. At the same time, many new companies,
not least from China, have been invited as
sub-stakeholders in mining.
Major exports by Venezuela with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
Venezuela is the third largest coal producer in Latin
America. The country also has a lot of natural gas,
which is mainly extracted by a subsidiary of the state
oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).
The oil industry was nationalized in the mid-1970s.
PDVSA is responsible for coordination, marketing and
investments in the oil industry, while the Ministry of
Petroleum determines the long-term development of the
business. In the 1990s, the oil industry was opened to
private investors, but when Hugo Chávez became president
in 1999, he again increased state control and PDVSA
became increasingly politically controlled. In August
2011, gold production was nationalized.
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Oil is mainly extracted in the Cuenca Oriental in the
east and Maracaibo in the west. The United States has
traditionally been the largest buyer. To reduce
dependence on the United States, Venezuela has sought
new markets, primarily in Asia. Lack of refining
opportunities mean that Venezuela, despite its oil
riches, imports gasoline. Now oil production has also
fallen sharply due to lack of investment. At the
beginning of 2020, production was one-quarter higher
than just over ten years earlier, and then production
collapsed even more (see Economic overview).
Despite the good supply of oil, hydropower accounts
for around 70 percent of the electricity consumed. The
majority is extracted at the Gurid dam on the Caroni
River in the east, one of the world's largest hydropower
plants. Electricity prices are low and many in addition
illegally connect to the electricity grid and steal
electricity. Although production has almost doubled in a
decade, it is not enough to meet rising demand. In
addition, maintenance of the mains is neglected. Power
shortages and power outages are common. Power outages
have increasingly become a politically charged issue.
The government claimed that sabotage was behind a
violent explosion at the country's largest oil refinery
in August 2012, when some 50 people were killed and 800
houses destroyed. According to outside experts, the
cause was a gas leak and a lack of maintenance.
During the acute political crisis in early 2019, more
extensive power cuts occurred than ever before in
Venezuela. The government and the opposition accused
each other of being behind the attacks (see Current
In 2008, Venezuela signed a cooperation agreement
with Russia to build the country's first nuclear power
plant. However, the plans were relieved after the severe
nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in March 2011.
Air pollution in Caracas and the surrounding area is
a serious environmental problem. In addition, the lakes
Maracaibo and Valencia are heavily polluted. Venezuela
is also at risk of being severely affected by the
climate change that results from global warming. The
mangrove swamp on the coast is submerged if the sea
level is raised. Extreme weather conditions can cause
landslides and flooding. When the amount of rainfall
changes, electricity generation in hydropower plants is
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
2,271 kilograms of oil equivalent (2013)
Electricity consumption per person
2661 kWh, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
185 220,000 tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
6.0 tons (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
12.8 percent (2015)
Chávez is receiving conclusive treatment in Cuba
The president is reported to have his fourth and final round of chemotherapy
treatment and is back in Havana for at least the second time since June. He has
received a round of treatment in Caracas. During his stay abroad, part of his
political power was transferred to Vice President Elías Jaua and Finance
Minister Jorge Giordani.
The gold industry is being nationalized
President Chávez announces that the mining industry will be nationalized and
that Venezuela's 211-tonne gold reserve will be recovered from overseas. In
addition, cash equivalent to $ 6.3 billion will be moved from the US and
European countries, to more "friendly" countries such as China, Russia and
Chávez is reported to have cancer
After several weeks of speculation about 56-year-old President Hugo Chávez's
health condition, he is reported to have been operated on for cancer in Cuba.
According to the opposition, it is contrary to the constitution that the
president governs from abroad.
Electric rationing is introduced
Disturbances in electricity supply in western Venezuela lead to rationing.
President Chávez has blamed the electricity shortage on everything from the lack
of investment by previous governments to sabotage, waste and increased demand
due to increased wealth.
US sanctions against PDSVA
The state oil company PDSVA is subject to sanctions because of its sale of
oil products to Iran. The government calls the decision "imperialist
Drug king surrendered from Colombia
Walid Makled, who is accused of being a leading Venezuelan drug king, is
extradited from Colombia to Venezuela. Makled has become something of a "hot
potato": the extradition takes place following a tug-of-war between Venezuela
and the US, which makes Makled one of the world's worst drug dealers.
Colombian Farc guerrilla leaders are arrested
A suspected Farc leader is arrested at Caracas airport, following a personal
call from Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos to Chávez. The arrested person
who is a Swedish citizen is reported to be Farc's leader in Europe. The arrest
is yet another sign of improved relations between neighboring countries
following Santo's accession in August 2010. A few months earlier, the two
countries have signed a security agreement to combat drug trafficking along the
The opposition again in Parliament
When the newly elected National Assembly gathers, the opposition participates
again, after boycotting the Assembly since the previous election.