Chile halts construction of huge gold mine

Apr 11, 2013 by Paulina Abramovich
Environmentalists shout slogans against the Pascua Lama mining project, in Santiago, in 2009. A Chilean court said on Wednesday it has suspended construction of what would be one of the world's biggest gold mines, accepting a complaint filed by indigenous groups on environmental grounds.

A Chilean court suspended construction of what would be one of the world's biggest gold mines, accepting a complaint filed by indigenous groups on environmental grounds.

The project was launched in 2009 by Canadian mining company Barrick , the world's largest gold producer, after an initial investment of $8 billion.

It plans to spend $8.5 billion more on the unfinished Pascua Lama mine, which straddles the Chile-Argentina border at an altitude of 4,000 meters (13,200 feet), and had hoped to start production next year.

But local groups have launched a legal battle to halt the plan, citing concerns over possible damage to a river and resulting in Tuesday's ruling by the Santiago Appeals Court, which was seen by AFP.

Wednesday's order, which suspends construction of the open-pit mine while the court studies the broader environmental issues, came as crews were still removing earth to create the pit from which gold and silver would be extracted.

Graphic on the Pascua Lama mine that straddles the Chile-Argentina border at an altitude of 4,000 metres. A Chilean court suspended construction of the project on Wednesday, accepting a complaint filed by indigenous groups on environmental grounds.

The complaint was filed by the indigenous Diaguita people in northern Chile.

It said that the construction work "has generated a situation of imminent environmental danger" for the glacier-fed Estrecho River.

Lorenzo Soto, a lawyer for the native people, said damage being caused by the mine construction was massive.

He said regulators had found that the glaciers at the source of the Estrecho were now covered in dust from the mine excavation, and that Barrick Gold had failed to prevent it as required.

"The are covered, which generates damage by producing a phenomenon of accelerating melting," Soto said.

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said he was not surprised by the court decision, and welcomed the idea of suspending the project while Barrick ensures it is complying with all environmental protection terms set by the government.

Barrick Gold said it was suspending work on the Chilean side of the border while it works to satisfy the environmental and regulatory requirements to the satisfaction of the Chilean authorities.

"It is too soon to assess the impact, if there is one, on the budget and calendar of the project," it said.

activities in Argentina, "where the majority of Pascua-Lama's critical infrastructure is located, including the process plant and tailings storage facility," are not affected by the ruling, the company said in a statement.

Explore further: Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Under Andean ice, a golden prize

May 13, 2009

An ambitious gold mining project in northern Chile, high up in the Andes close to ancient glaciers, is finally getting underway amid the economic downturn despite fears from environmentalists.

Chilean court overturns ban on giant Patagonia dam

Oct 07, 2011

A Chilean court on Thursday overturned a three-month suspension of a project to build a giant hydroelectric dam complex in the Patagonian wilderness, which environmentalists say will destroy a unique habitat.

Chile court blocks giant Patagonia dam project

Jun 20, 2011

A Chilean court ordered the suspension of a project to build a complex of giant hydroelectric dams in the Patagonian wilderness, bowing to appeals by lawmakers and environmental groups.

Chilean court approves huge Patagonia dam

Apr 04, 2012

Chile's Supreme Court Wednesday removed the last legal obstacle to building a giant $2.9 billion hydroelectric complex in the Patagonian wilderness, rejecting a bid by environmentalists to block it.

Chile supreme court halts Patagonia dam project

May 13, 2012

Chile's supreme court has halted construction on the Rio Cuervo hydroelectric project in the country's remote and pristine Patagonia region, after accepting an appeal from environmental groups.

Recommended for you

Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

19 hours ago

A Russian Black Sea city declared a state of emergency Thursday after a burst pipeline spewed oil into the landlocked water body, with stormy weather hampering cleanup efforts.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.