Despite being ordered by a Chilean court to stop work on the portion of the Pascua Lama mine that falls within its borders, Canada-based miner Barrick Gold announced this week that it will continue to develop the mine on its Argentine side.
Earlier this month, the Santiago Appeals Court suspended construction operations at the mine, accepting a complaint filed by indigenous groups citing concerns that the project would threaten their water supply and cause pollution to Andes glaciers.
The court issued the suspension in order to study the broader environmental issues from the planned open-pit mine. The complaint was filed by the Diaguita Indians, a small community based in northern Chile. It said that the construction work “has generated a situation of imminent environmental danger” on the Estrecho River.
This prompted the mining company to warn last week that it will completely pull out of the Chilean operations if the court suspension continues beyond this year.
In February, OOSKAnews reported that the Environmental Evaluation Commission in Chile’s Atacama region had fined Pascua Lama some $250,000 USD for sanitation issues and violations of the company’s glacier monitoring plan.
“We are convinced that mining is very important for our country -- and it will continue to be -- but we must all work according to the new standards that the country has defined to develop the activity,” La Tercera quoted Minister of Mines Hernán de Solminihac as saying in a February 22 report.
“Obviously, the companies that do their job well do not have any problem. Those that have had some difficulty -- we must continue to perfect them,” Solminihac added.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Argentinean government met with Barrick Gold officials on April 30. Mining Secretary Jorge Mayoral said the project is advancing “in good form,” according to Fox News, while Barrick Vice President Kelvin Dushnisky said that with more than 50 percent of construction completed, the Argentine part of the project is on schedule.
He insisted that the company follows all environmental laws in Argentina. However, environmental group have questioned these assurances, saying both the Pascua Lama and the Veladero mines violate Argentina’s new law that protects glaciers from mining operations.
The Argentine Environmental and Natural Resources Foundation this week called on Argentina’s Supreme Court to secure a copy of the Chilean court ruling. It also wants a copy of an environmental audit conducted by the San Juan provincial government.
Both documents “are of vital importance towards an effective implementation of the glacier law,” the group says.