MAC: Mines and Communities

Chile approves Barrick mine, despite environmental concerns

Published by MAC on 2006-02-15

Chile approves Barrick mine, despite environmental concerns

by CBC News

15th February 2006

Chile's government has given Barrick Gold Corp. the go-ahead to build a $1.5-billion US gold mine in the Andes mountains despite opposition from local environmentalists.

Barrick expects to start production of the Pascua Lama project in 2009, giving it an estimated 17 million ounces of gold over 20 years.

Chile did, however, make a major concession to the environmentalists when it prohibited Barrick from relocating three mountain glaciers.

The gold is buried under the ice.

The proposed relocation triggered strong opposition by environmental groups in Chile and abroad. They said the project would damage the ecosystem in the fertile Huasco Valley, about 800 kilometres north of Santiago.

About 6,000 people live in the valley where they grow avocado, grapes, olives and other crops, depending on water fed by the glaciers above.

Barrick has promised to protect the environment in the area. But that wasn't good enough for local residents who plan to appeal the decision by Chilean environmental agencies.

"Of course there will be an appeal," Mirna Inostrosa, a spokeswoman for residents in the area opposed to the plan. "This battle is just beginning."

RELATED WEBSITE: Urgent Action: Campaign against Barrick Gold's Pascua Lama mining project

Presidential spokesman Osvaldo Puccio said that the authorization "clearly prevents any intervention with a glacier and, in addition, guarantees the supply of water resources in accordance with Chile's legislation. There will be a total protection of the water resources."

The share price (TSX:ABX)of the Toronto-based gold-miner fell 68 cents Wednesday to close at $32.43 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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