Argentina lobbies to overturn Barrick’s Pascua Lama freeze in Chile

Argentina lobbies to overturn Barrick’s Pascua Lama freeze in Chile

Work at the Argentine side of Pascua Lama, halted since Oct. 2013.

Barrick Gold's (TSX, NYSE:ABX) $8.5 billion Pascua Lama mine is getting a hand from Argentine authorities planning to meet Chile’s upcoming government to discuss the Canadian miner’s options of reversing the decision that suspended the project in Sept. last year.

Chile’s newspaper El Diario quotes (in Spanish) Argentine officials from the San Juan province —where the mine will be located— as saying they will keep asking for a meeting with incoming President-elect Michelle Bachelet and her ministers until they are granted one.

Sergio Uñac, vice governor of San Juan, said the message Argentine authorities want to deliver to their peers in Chile is the “importance of fast-moving the necessary decisions" to lift the project suspension.

Since the Canadian miner announced in late October it was temporarily suspending all construction activity at both sides of Pascua-Lama, which straddles the Chile-Argentina border, about 1,500 jobs have been put on the line.

On the Argentine side, the project currently employs 5,000, but in the next months the total will be reduced to 3,500, as Argentine workers won't be needed for another two years. Barrick is focusing its efforts on the Chilean side, where it needs to build a water treatment facility – a requirement to getting an environmental permit.

Pascua Lama is expected to produce around 850,000 ounces of gold and 35 million ounces of silver in its first five years. Production, scheduled to begin this year, has now been delayed until mid-2016.

Image courtesy of Greenpeace