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Venezuela, Russian companies start tapping oil

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A joint venture involving Venezuela's state oil company and a consortium of Russian oil companies has begun to tap a rich deposit of heavy oil in eastern Venezuela.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez oversaw a ceremony where a sample of heavy oil was extracted on Thursday in the eastern state of Anzoategui. The Venezuelan state news agency reported that Ramirez said joint investment involving the Russian consortium and Venezuela is projected to reach about $38 billion.

Ramirez says the Russian consortium includes the companies Rosneft, Lukoil and Gazprom.

Rosneft President Igor Sechin said on Wednesday that two joint oil projects in the Orinoco River region, known as Junin 6 and Carabobo 2, are projected to require up to $20 billion each in investment over the coming decades.