1,500 Barrick workers out of a job as Pascua Lama suspension takes effect

Barrick Gold Corp is laying off 1,500 Argentine workers from its stalled $8.5 billion Pascua Lama gold mine which straddles the Argentine-Chilean border.

A spokesman for the San Juan Mining Ministry told Reuters that the company is focusing its efforts on the Chilean side and that workers on the other side of the border won't be needed for another two years.

On the Argentine side, the project currently employs 5,000. By next year that figure will be 3,500.

Before suspending the Pascua Lama mine earlier this year, the project employed 10,000.

Employees in the San Juan province are being retained "to perform maintenance tasks and build some infrastructure," Reuters writes.

On the Chilean side, workers are busy building a water treatment facility – a requirement to getting an environmental permit.

Pascua Lama's costs have skyrocketed since it was first proposed in the late-1990s with an estimated price tag of $1.5 billion. But with a declining gold price and significant debts, Barrick suspended the project in October until conditions improve.