Venezuela's new map that includes the Essequibo territory as its...

Venezuela's new map that includes the Essequibo territory as its own is displayed at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. Leaders of Guyana and Venezuela are preparing to meet this week to address an escalating dispute over the Essequibo region that is rich in oil and minerals. Credit: AP/Matias Delacroix

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Oil giant ExxonMobil says it will keep ramping up production in offshore Guyana despite the escalation of a territorial dispute with neighboring Venezuela, which claims that oil-rich region as its own.

In a brief statement posted Monday on Facebook, ExxonMobil Guyana said it was reaffirming its “long-term commitment to Guyana” as tensions grow between the two South American countries that share a border.

“We are not going anywhere – our focus remains on developing the resources efficiently and responsibly, per our agreement with the Guyanese government,” the company wrote.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro proposed that companies operating in the vast Essequibo region in Guyana, that is rich with minerals and located near massive oil deposits, should withdraw their operations within three months.

His government also is seeking to ban companies operating in Guyana from doing so in his country.

Venezuelan lawmakers are currently debating a bill that contains the proposed ban.

Maduro has argued he has the authority to issue such orders following a Dec. 3 referendum aimed at annexing the Essequibo area.

ExxonMobil is producing about 600,000 barrels of oil a day after successfully drilling more than 40 wells off Guyana’s Essequibo region. The Exxon-Mobil consortium also submitted a bid and received approval to develop three more areas in the region believed to contain additional oil deposits.

Many of Guyana’s largest gold, diamond, manganese and other mines also are located in Essequibo. Most are Canadian-owned, but no companies have reacted yet to Maduro’s statement. Several Chinese companies also have timber operations in the area.

ExxonMobil issued the statement a day after Guyana’s president, Irfaan Ali, told reporters Sunday that investors have nothing to fear.

“We want to encourage our investors to invest as much as they want,” he said.

Ali and Maduro will meet Thursday in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to discuss the territorial dispute, with regional leaders urging talks to avoid further conflict.

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