The Supreme Court of Chile has overturned an Environmental Court order to permanently close the stalled Pascua–Lama project, which straddles the Andes mountains with Argentina.
The Supreme Court last week annulled the October 2018 administrative decision of the Antofagasta Environmental Court on procedural grounds and remanded the case back to the court for review by a different panel of judges, Canadian miner Barrick reported on Monday.
This process, the company added, that could last several months.
The gold and silver project was put on hold in 2013, owing to environmental issues, political opposition, labour unrest and development costs that have ballooned. Chile’s environmental regulator in January 2018 told Barrick to close the mine and fined the company $11.5-billion. The Environmental Court ruling of October 2018 rubber-stamped that order.
Barrick noted, however, that the Supreme Court did not review the merits of the regulator’s closure orders of January last year. Those orders remained in effect and were subject to an appeal.
Barrick president and CEO Mark Bristow said in a statement that although the Supreme Court’s decision was not helpful – in that it delayed a decision on the future of the Pascua-Lama project – the company remained focused on resolving the legal and environmental issues around the project.
He said that Barrick had embarked on a technical review of the project parameters and potential. As part of this work, the company conducted geochemical and geohydrological studies for a water management plan, which it said should be acceptable to the environmental authority.
Bristow, who last month met with Chile Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica, said Barrick’s Chilean assets were an important part of its global portfolio. These include the jointly owned Zaldívar copper mine and the Norte Abierto and Alturas gold projects.
“Over the past ten years, the company has spent around $8-billion in the country on exploration and development as well as royalties and taxes, wages and payments to local suppliers.
“Chile is an investor-friendly country, with a significant mineral endowment, and which encourages the development of mining projects. We believe that despite the legacy challenges relating to the Pascua-Lama project there are exciting opportunities here, especially in the El Indio Belt…,” Bristow said.