Toronto's Barrick Gold has come to an initial agreement with 13 of the 18 indigenous Diaguita communities that have vigorously opposed development of the Pascua-Lama gold project on the Chile-Argentina border, according to the lawyer representing the local groups.
"This is historical, never seen in Chile's mining history," Lorenzo Soto, the lawyer for the Diaguita, said. "A new phase in the way that large scale mining is done in Chile has begun."
He hailed the changing attitudes of mining sector. In the past development was able to proceed "even if it trod all over the rights of the local communities." Now they a new, consultative approach is taking shape.
The agreement between the Diaguita and Barrick is to last six months, during which time Barrick will provide project details to the community. Third party experts, paid for by the mining company, will corroborate the details. If this process is successful, discussions will enter a dialogue phase that may involve international observers and the creation of a unique royalty payable to the Diaguita. That phase is expected to last two to three years. Construction will not restart until the dialogue is concluded.
(Editor's note: We have long known that Barrick has an exemplary record of community engagement in South America. It is to Barrick's credit that discussions with local communities did not cease even though construction did.)