Massive Chilean Gold Mine Project Operated By Barrick Gold (ABX) Suspended By Court After Water Management Concerns

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Barrick profit falls, sees Pascua-Lama costs rising
Barrick Gold CEO Aaron Regent

A Chilean court has suspended work on the $8.5 billion Pascua-Lama gold project of mining company Barrick Gold Corp. (NYSE:ABX), the world's largest gold mining company, until the Canadian miner can build infrastructure that prevents water pollution, Barrick said.

The Copiapo Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Barrick must complete the project’s water management system in line with its existing environmental permit, with approval from Chile’s superintendent of the environment, before resuming construction work, the company said in a statement.

In May, the superintendent suspended construction on the project and fined a Barrick subsidiary $16 million for violations relating to the project’s water management system.

An indigenous group living near Pascua-Lama also sued Barrick in September 2012, complaining that the company's work did environmental damage that harmed their local farms and economy. Their attorney Lorenzo Soto told Reuters that the group could eventually ask the Chilean Supreme Court to revoke the firm’s permit if their concerns are not satisfied.

In a statement, Barrick said that it has a plan to complete an adequate water management system by the end of 2014 and hopes to resume construction then.

The company has said that Pascua-Lama probably won’t produce gold until mid-2016. It estimates that the mine will produce 800,000 to 850,000 troy ounces of gold annually in its first five years of operation.

But Pascua-Lima has also been troubled by project delays and excessive capital expenditures, with $4.8 billion spent on the project as of April 2013.

According to its website, Barrick is the world’s leading gold producer, on track to produce as much as 7 million to 7.4 million ounces of gold in 2013. 

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