Dominican Republic’s Mining Agency director denied Monday local reports saying the government would not let Xstrata (LON: XTA) go ahead with its planned expansion plans at Loma Miranda, as it would harm the region’s ecosystems. However, Dominican Today reports the authority added he believed Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX), (NYSE:ABX) should pay higher taxes, as it is profiting from the precious metal strong prices.
Last month the country’s Legislature announced it would review and possibly change the contract with the Toronto-based gold company, in a bid to make the terms “more favourable” to the Dominican Republic.
And last week, in a meeting with the local branch of the American Chamber of Commerce, Alexander Medina, announced upcoming consultations on the proposed revision of Barrick’s contract to exploit Pueblo Viejo mine. He also said his office would start fast tracking mining permits, as the Caribbean nation was sitting on “over $60 billion of proven mineral and metal reserves” waiting to be mined.
Medina added the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has begun its evaluation of the environmental impact study for Xstrata's project, as requested by the Dominican environment ministry last October, but that the government's final decision should be independent of the UN's report.
In a statement (in Spanish), the UNDP said its team of experts began working last week and would continue Monday with site visits and meetings as part of the overall evaluation process, which should take about three months.
The purpose of the external organization's involvement is to provide recommendations to help the Dominican government make a decision on Xstrata’s project, UNDP representative, Valerie Julliand, and team coordinator, Eduardo Vadillo, told last week Hoy.com (in Spanish).
The proposed expansion project at Loma Miranda, near Xstrata’s current Falcondo nickel mine, is a deciding factor for the company to remain in the country since its current operations have no more than five years left, Falcondo spokesman Luis José Lopez said, according to the same article.
The Dominican Republic has been reluctant to issue the environmental permit for Xstrata’s project as opposition to mining in the country has been recently escalating, revealed in November a report by Exclusive Analysis, a UK-based risk consultancy.
As exposed by the experts, environmental protests are increasingly likely to cause delays and contract cancellations to nickel and gold mining companies in the Caribbean country.
Xstrata, Barrick Gold and Goldcorp (NYSE: GG,TSX:G) are the major miners with presence in the Dominican Republic. The firms have a combined total of 14 exploration and exploitation projects in the nation. Other companies in the country are Perilya (ASX:PEM) and Panterra Resource Corp.
(Image: Tax Day New York. April 17, 2012 by Michael Fleshman)