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Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling

Barrick Gold finally seems to have given up hopes of developing its large Pascua gold-silver deposit in Chile after accepting an Antofagasta Environmental Court’s decision to uphold a closure order and sanctions imposed by the environmental regulator imposed on its local subsidiary.
Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling Barrick to close Pascua having failed to overturn ruling

Pascua Lama in Chile-Argentina

Barrick said the ruling drew a line under a legal process that started in 2013 and the company would not appeal it, with the project to be transitioned from care and maintenance to closure.

The court dismissed Barrick's legal challenge to a 2018 ruling and confirmed three of the five main charges in the environmental authority's original ruling: that Barrick failed to properly monitor glaciers surrounding the project, the discharge of contact water into the Estrecho river and that it used an unauthorized methodology for calculating water quality levels, which is less detailed and strict than the one required in Chile.

The court also maintained a 7 million peso (US$9.2 million) fine imposed by the SMA environmental authority.

"The [SMA] acted within the scope of legality, correctly weighing the elements of proportionality when opting for the sanction of definitive closure and not for a partial or limited temporary closure, since the magnitude of the danger of damage to people's health makes it the closure of the Pascua Lama mining project necessary as other alternatives for the safe operation for the environment and the health of the population does not seem viable," said court president Mauricio Oviedo.

The court spoke harshly about Barrick's failure to monitor nearby glaciers and ice fields, calling it one of the serious offences, highlighting "the failure to present evidence that could justify the absence of data, nor did it indicate all the necessary measures it took to at least try to obtain some information".

Pascua Lama is a cross boarder project which was slated to produce up to 850,000 ounces of gold and 35Moz of silver per year during the first five years of a 25-year life. Despite the setback on  the Chilean side, Barrick indicated it was still hopeful of being able to develop the Lama part of the project in Argentina. To this end, it is commissioning yet another project re-evaluation.