Barrick, Goldcorp holding breath as Canadian court poised to decide El Morro ownership

The two largest gold companies are bracing for a Canadian court's decision on who owns the massive El Morro copper-gold deposit in Chile.

As reported by The Globe and Mail, Goldcorp and Barrick Gold are fighting for control of El Morro, which according to Goldcorp's website, contains 8.4 million ounces of gold and 6.1 billion pounds of copper. The deposit is currently 70%-owned by Goldcorp and 30% by New Gold.

Toronto-based Barrick claims that Goldcorp "illegally obtained control of the project through violations of agreements among the mine’s shareholders," a charge disputed by Vancouver-based Goldcorp.

The Globe reports that final legal arguments were submitted to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in February and quotes Goldcorp president and CEO Charles Jeannes saying a ruling is expected "any day".

Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported earlier this month that an appeals court has suspended environmental authorization for the project. According to the paper, approval, first given a year ago, was withdrawn because of a lack of consultation with local communities, a charge Goldcorp denies.

Construction of the mine is due to commence in September this year at a cost of $3.9 billion over five years; $185 million has already been committed for 2012.

Goldcorp says El Morro is expected to produce an average of over 210,000 ounces of gold and 200 million pounds of copper per year, over a 17-year minelife.