Argentina extends Barrick’s Veladero gold mine halt

Argentina extends Barrick’s Veladero gold mine halt until end of October

Barrick's Veladero is one of the largest gold mines in Argentina. (Image courtesy of Barrick Gold)

An Argentine judge ruled Wednesday that gold leaching processes at Barrick Gold Corp's (TSX, NYSE:ABX) Veladero mine should remain suspended until authorities can determine whether there was environmental damage from a cyanide leak triggered by a faulty valve.

Pablo Oritja, from the western province of San Juan where the mine is located, had initially ordered a five-day suspension, but he decided to extend the holdup “as a precautionary measure,” he told local TV station TN (in Spanish).

A company's spokesperson told MINING.com the halt implies that Barrick is restricted from adding new cyanide to the leach circuit until the firm meets several additional requests. These, he added, are related primarily to "inspection and maintenance of the valves that were involved in the incident."

On Sept. 13, Barrick acknowledged a pipe carrying cyanide at the Veladero mine had a valve failure causing a leak into nearby waters. An investigation determined about 1,000 cubic metres of liquid cyanide had spilled.

Local residents have feared contamination of their water and the judge said environmental impact couldn’t be ruled out just yet.

"The company has to present a plan for improvements to the safe handling of valves," Oritja said according to Diario Uno (in Spanish).

Veladero, one of the largest gold mines in Argentina, produced 722,000 ounces of gold in 2014.

The company has said that production has not been affected by the suspension order.

* The original version said Veladero had been suspended for another 30 days, as reported by Argentine media. The source was incorrect.