Bullion major Barrick is advancing plans for the expansion of its Pueblo Viejo operation, in the Dominican Republic, announcing on Tuesday that it had agreed on independent, government-led oversight of environmental and social-impact assessment studies for a new tailings storage facility.
The facility, which forms part of a $1.3-billion expansion project at Pueblo Viejo, is key to the mine continuing to operate beyond 2021 and could extend the mine’s life to beyond 2040, supporting production of more than 800 000 oz/y.
“The expansion project has the potential to allow Pueblo Viejo to convert approximately nine-million ounces of measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves,” said Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow.
The agreement comes after more than a year of engagement with the communities that could be directly or indirectly affected by the proposed facility and is an important step towards starting fieldwork and advancing the permitting process.
The independent investigation would be conducted by a leading international firm of specialists and run in parallel with Barrick’s engineering and environmental studies.
The studies would ensure that the applicable environmental standards and regulations were complied with, including actions for the protection of surface water and groundwater, biodiversity and cultural heritage.
“At Barrick we have a commitment to responsible mining and transparency, so we welcome such initiatives,” said Bristow.
Barrick has started work on a local agribusiness development, which would be integrated into the tailings facility.
From 2013 to July 2021, Barrick Pueblo Viejo has paid more than $2.9-billion in direct and indirect taxes and last year its exports accounted for 37% of the total national asset exports.
Bristow said that with the expansion project, Pueblo Viejo’s total economic contribution to the Dominican government in direct and indirect taxes is expected to be more than $9-billion from the beginning of commercial production in 2013 through the extended life-of-mine beyond 2040.
Pueblo Viejo’s previous operator, Rosario Dominicana, effectively abandoned the mine in 1995 without a proper closure, leaving it with a major water contamination problem. When Barrick took over the asset, it launched the biggest environmental clean-up campaign in the country’s history, and the water quality of the aquifers around the operation has significantly improved and now meets regulatory standards.