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Barrick to push ahead with controversial mine as Chilean court upholds freeze

Mining machinery and barrels with chemicals sit on the facilities of Barrick Gold Corp's Pascua-Lama project in northern Chile, Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Jorge Saenz/AP Photo

Barrick Gold Corp. says it intends to proceed with its controversial Pascua-Lama gold mine in South America after Chile's highest court issued a ruling that requires the company to complete a water-management system that must first meet the approval of the country's environment ministry.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Chile confirms an earlier decision by a lower court requiring Toronto-based Barrick to complete Pascua-Lama's water management system in compliance with the project's environmental permit, Barrick said in a news release Thursday.

Barrick says the decision puts an end to a constitutional rights protection action filed last year on behalf of four indigenous communities.

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The action sought to strike down the project's environmental licence.

"Barrick is committed to operating at the highest environmental standards at all of its operations around the world, including at Pascua-Lama," the company said on Thursday.

"The company is pleased that the ruling allows the project to advance in compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements."

The Copiano Court of Appeals in July ordered a freeze on construction of the $8.5-billion (U.S.) project until Barrick installs infrastructure to prevent water pollution at the site.

The company was fined about $16-million in May for "very serious" violations of its environmental permit.

Barrick said on Thursday it has submitted a plan to Chilean regulatory authorities which estimates completion of the water-management system by the end of next year.

The gold and silver mountain-top mine in the Andes straddles the border between Argentina and Chile.

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Barrick is also fighting several class-action lawsuits from investors claiming that the mining giant violated federal securities laws in the United States by making false and misleading claims and also concealing data concerning the cost and development timeline for Pascua-Lama.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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