Canadian-based Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner, announced this week that it would delay any work on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides of its Pascua-Lama gold mine past 2014 because of Chile’s environmental concerns.In April, the Santiago Appeals Court suspended construction operations at the mine, accepting a complaint filed by indigenous groups who were concerned 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. The group said construction work at the site “has generated a situation of imminent environmental danger” on the Estrecho River.
The court also fined Barrick Gold $16 million USD for violations of its environmental permit.
Last month, the mining company had said it would halt operations on the Chilean side of the mine, but would continue to develop the mine on its Argentine side.
It even warned that it would completely pull out of the Chilean operations if the court suspension continues beyond this year.
However, this week it filed papers with Canadian regulators saying it would now delay the entire project. This means the project will likely exceed its current $8.5 billion USD budget.
The company said it was still considering its decision and is in talks with Chile’s Environment Ministry.
"While the company is assessing opportunities for potential reductions in certain expenditures, the delay beyond 2014 is expected to result in a related increase in capital cost," the statement to Canadian regulators said.
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.