Canadian miner Barrick Gold’s (NYSE:ABX)(TSX:ABX) operations in Latin America are giving the company more than one headache these days.
First, Chilean authorities charged the company with a $250,000 fine over its Pascua Lama mining project last week, forcing the company to halt construction work due to alleged sanitation issues and violations of miner’s glacier monitoring plan.
And last week, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic, which was hearing a case contesting the $3 billion Pueblo Viejo project, owned 60% by Barrick Gold and 40% by fellow Canadian Goldcorp (TSX: G), (NYSE: GG).
According to Santiago-based newspaper La Tercera (in Spanish) Minister of Mines Hernan de Solminihac was pleased with last week’s measure as, he said, “it proves environmental regulations are respected in Chile.”
“We are convinced that mining is very important for our country — and it will continue to be — but we must all work according to the new standards that the country has defined to develop the activity,” Solminihac was quoted as saying.
Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) had ordered a halt to work in two parts of the Andean site Oct. 31 because the concentration of fine particles in the air exceeded safety limits.
The Ministry of Mines has not ruled out the possibility of revoking Pascua Lama’s Environmental Qualification, warned Solminihac, but he added that would depend on an evaluation by the appropriate authorities.
Meanwhile Barrick continues to negotiate with Dominican authorities who want to make the terms of the contract “more favourable” to the country.
The operation, said Barrick when announcing it had reached commercial production in January, is expected to support about 2,000 direct jobs and nearly 10,000 indirect jobs over the 25-year mine life, with Dominicans accounting for nearly 90% of the full-time workforce.
But the Dominican Government argues the contract with Barrick states the country will only start receiving benefits once the gold giant recovers the investment in the operation and yields a 10% profit.
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