Barrick Gold halts Veladero mine on fresh cyanide spill

Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp (TSX, NYSE:ABX) confirmed Thursday a new spill at its Veladero mine in the San Juan province of Argentina and said it has temporarily suspended operations pending further inspections of the mine's heap leach area.

The fresh spill happened on Sep. 8, when a pipe carrying process solution in the heap leach area was struck by a large block of ice that had rolled down the heap leach valley slope, Barrick said in the statement. A small quantity of solution left the leach pad as a result.

Earlier this year Barrick was ordered to pay a $9.8m fine over a cyanide spill at the same mine, which happened almost exactly a year ago.

According to Barrick, no solution from the damaged pipe reached any water diversion channels or watercourses and the impacted area in the leach valley has now been remediated.

While the gold giant, the world’s largest by output, did not mention cyanide in its press release, local newspaper El Clarín reports (in Spanish) that Barrick authorities in Argentina have confirmed that was the case.

“The incident did not pose any threat to the health of employees, communities or the environment,” Barrick said in the statement.

Earlier this year, the Toronto-based miner was ordered to pay a 145.7m pesos or $9.8m fine over a cyanide spill at the same mine, which happened almost exactly a year ago.

When Barrick announced the fine in March, it said it had undertaken a plan to strengthen controls and safeguards at the mine, including increased water monitoring.

Regarding the new incident, the company noted it would work with provincial authorities to confirm the integrity and safety of the heap leach facility as quickly as possible, beginning today.

Veladero, one of the largest gold mines in Argentina, produced 602,000 ounces last year. Proven and probable mineral reserves as of December 31, 2015, were 7.5 million ounces of gold. Gold production in 2016 is expected to be 630,000-690,000 ounces at all-in sustaining costs of $830-$900 per ounce according to the company's website.

Barrick said it didn't expect the incident to have a material effect on its 2016 operating guidance for the mine.