Argentina’s Supreme Court to hear case on Barrick's mine

Argentina’s Supreme Court needs to clarify who has jurisdiction over the Ministry of Environment’s case against Barrick Gold's (TSX, NYSE:ABX) Veladero mine.

A ruling filed on Monday by the federal court currently in charge of the case shows that its judges would like the highest tribunal to elucidate who would be the right institution to decide if operations at Veladero should be halted until Barrick can guarantee that it is taking measures to protect the environment.

There is uncertainty in this regard because, despite the fact that it was the Ministry who introduced the motion to suspend Veladero following three cyanide spills in an 18-month period, mining activity is usually regulated by provincial governments.

But the Ministry has already ignored such convention, as it stood by its request following San Juan authorities’ decision to lift restrictions on leaching operations three months after Barrick’s latest incident.

"We are very respectful of the decision the Court will make. But we hope that it recognizes our right to make legal claims in the collective interests of all society," Juan Trebino, subsecretary of environmental inspection and control in the Environment Ministry, told Reuters.

But no one knows how long it will take the Supreme Court to reach a conclusion, as there is no deadline to reach a verdict.

Veladero is Argentina’s largest gold mine and the third-largest in the portfolio of the world's biggest gold producer.

The mine produced 544,000 ounces last year and has proven and probable mineral reserves estimated at 6.7 million ounces of gold as of December 31, 2016, according to the company's website.