CHILE – Construction of the Chilean portion of the Pascua-Lama gold mine has been suspended following an injunction issued by a Chilean court of appeals. Toronto-based owner Barrick Gold Corp. said in a tersely worded statement that it “has not yet been formally notified of the court order and will assess the potential implications once it has received official notification.”
Barrick was quick to point out that work in Argentina is not affected. The majority of the project’s infrastructure, including the processing plant and tailings management area, is located in that country. The pit straddles the border of Chile and Argentina, 5,500 metres above sea level in the Andes Mountains.
The court in the city of Copiapo charged the world’s largest gold miner with “environmental irregularities” at Pascua-Lama. The charges were laid by the Diaguita indigenous people who complained that the project is threating their water supply by destroying glaciers and polluting groundwater. They allege that the project has negative impacts, or at least the risk of negative impacts, on the Estrecho and Huasco rivers.
The Pascua-Lama project has been delayed at several stages of exploration and development. Not the least of which lasted over a decade until 2009 as the two countries worked out a treaty that would allow workers to move freely back and forth over the border in the pit. Every delay costs money, too. Barrick has watched as the cost of the project that started out at $3 billion balloon to over $8 billion. The opening of the mine has already been delayed several times to the second half of 2014. Appealing the court’s decision will result in further postponement of the start-up.
Visit Barrick’s website at Barrick.com to learn more about the Pascua-Lama project.