Santiago, April 11 (IANS/EFE) Citing unresolved environmental issues, a Chilean court ordered a complete halt to work on the Chile portion of Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama mining project, which extends across the Andes into neighbouring Argentina.
The court in the northern city of Copiapo granted an injunction in response to a request from area communities.
Work will continue on the Argentine portion of Pascua Lama, which is estimated to hold 18 million ounces of gold and 676 million ounces of silver.
The world’s first bi-national mining project encompasses parts of the western Argentine province of San Juan and of Chile’s Atacama region and lies at an elevation of 3,800-5,200 meters.
While Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, insists that its activities will not affect nearby ice fields and glaciers, neither the residents or Chile’s National Water Directorate are convinced by those assurances.
Regional environmental authorities have fined Barrick a total of 160 million pesos ($336,000) for infractions and the water directorate said the company’s mistakes led to “direct adverse effects” on the glaciers and the supply of water.
The Canada-based miner had $3.7 billion invested in Pascua Lama as of last November and was projecting that the mine would start to produce gold in the second half of 2014.