The Globe and Mail reports, “Chile’s environmental regulator blocked Barrick Gold Corp.’s $8.5-billion (U.S.) Pascua-Lama project on Friday and imposed its maximum fine (of about $16 million) on the world’s largest gold miner, citing ‘very serious’ violations of its environmental permit as well as a failure by the company to accurately describe what it had done wrong. After a four-month investigation, Chile’s Environmental Superintendent said all construction work on Pascua-Lama must stop until Barrick builds the systems it promised to put in place for containing contaminated water.”
Maglene Camillay, a Diaguita leader, commented, “This is what we have always been hoping for. This makes us very content. Finally the state is showing its power. They never investigated this and now they’re doing their job. Our valley is fragile but we’re strong. The strength we get from the earth, the water and the mountains.”
This follows another fine of $250,000 imposed on Barrick Gold in February 2013 by Chilean authorities. Mining.com reported it was “due to alleged sanitation issues and violations of miner’s glacier monitoring plan”.
Also, in mid-April, Reuters reported, “Barrick Gold Corp halted construction on its huge Pascua-Lama gold and silver mine in Chile after a local court ordered the suspension to weigh indigenous communities’ claims that the project destroys glaciers and harms their water supply.” The appeals court in the northern town of Copiapo cited concentrations of arsenic, aluminum, copper and sulphates in groundwater and rivers in the Atacama desert region that exceeded levels deemed acceptable.
In terms of timelines, it is expected that the appeals court ruling will be appealed and that the Supreme Court could end up deciding on the project in about a year. Objections to the Pascua Lama mine are also expected to be an issue in the November 2014 presidential elections in Chile. In July 2011, Barrick announced a delay in its target date for initial production at the mine to 2014, but given these serious developments that start-date could be derailed or delayed until 2015 at the earliest.
For more, please read:
UPDATE: Ethics of PMO meeting with Barrick Gold left unanswered
NEWS: Chilean court halts Pascua Lama mine
NEWS: Chile fines Barrick Gold $250,000 for violations by its Pascua Lama mine
NEWS: Pascua Lama mine threatens glaciers, water in Chile and Argentina