GOLD MINE APPROVAL – Glacial debate will not slow Pascua-Lama environmental approval

ARGENTINA/CHILE BORDER - Toronto-based BARRICK GOLD expects to receive environmental approval for its US$1.5-billio...
ARGENTINA/CHILE BORDER - Toronto-based BARRICK GOLD expects to receive environmental approval for its US$1.5-billion Pascua-Lama gold-silver project by the end of 2005, despite concerns over the movement and proposed conservation of portions of three glaciers.

Barrick officials have been giving evidence this week to congressional environmental and mining commissions in Santiago on the viability and potential impact of moving a portion of three glaciers that overlay the proposed Pascua-Lama open pit high up in the Andes. Some farmers in northern Chile's Region III have raised concerns that the operation will contaminate and reduce water supplies, while ecologists have questioned the impact that moving the glaciers will have on the ecosystem.

"Today, the reality of permitting projects, wherever you are, is that you have non-governmental organizations and interest groups that participate in the process, and that's normal and healthy," Barrick spokesman Vince Borg said.

Barrick's plan involves moving a portion of ice from glaciers Toro I, Toro II and Esperanza, which represents less than 1% of the total glacial ice that feeds the same water basin and so would not impact water supplies, he added. The area concerned measures the equivalent of 10 hectares to a depth of 10 metres. The ice would be removed using hydraulic shovels and transported by truck 2 km south to the Guanaco glacier (which supplies the same water basin) where the ice will attach itself as it freezes, said Borg. The operation would take an estimated 4-6 months.

Glaciers have been successfully transferred elsewhere in the world, such as Canada and Russia, to make way for mining, according to Borg.

Barrick filed an addendum to its Chilean EIA answering queries and including a glacial viability plan on April 20. A more detailed glacial operational management plan will be filed within a month, an estimated six months earlier than required, said Borg.

Both the Chilean consultation period and the Argentine consultation period have closed. The documents will now be studied in detail by the relevant authorities.

More on Barrick's expansion plans may be read at


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