Barrick may face ‘negligence’ charges over latest spill at Veladero — report

Veladero is one of Argentina’s largest gold mines. (Image courtesy of Barrick Latin America)

Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE:ABX) could have prevented the third spill of cyanide solution in 18 months at its Veladero mine in Argentina had it replaced pipes as ordered by local authorities earlier, a judge said.

According to El Economista (in Spanish), the Canadian gold miner missed deadlines on three orders from San Juan province authorities, where Veladero is located, including replacing the pipes that decoupled in March.

Judge Pablo Oritja said those unfulfilled orders led to the ongoing investigation into the company’s past negligence. The process he’s overseeing may end with the world’s No.1 gold company paying a fine, restricting operations at Veladero, or both.

Sanctions could include a fine and restrictions to operating Veladero.

Cortija may also issue other charges if he determines the cyanide spill posed harm to people or the environment, the article says.

That probe, along with the provincial government’s review of Barrick’s mine development plan, could thwart the miner’s plans of bringing Veladero back to normal operations by June.

The probe may also interfere with Barrick’s sale of a 50% interest in Veladero to Shandong Gold Group, announced last month.

Veladero resumed operations in October last year, after having been suspended for almost a month following a spill containing cyanide, the second such incident in just over a year.

Earlier in the year, the Toronto-based miner had to pay a 145.7m pesos fine (about $9.8m at the time) over a previous cyanide spill at the same mine.

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

Veladero, one of the largest gold mines in Argentina, produced 544,000 ounces last year. Proven and probable mineral reserves as of December 31, 2016, were 6.7 million ounces of gold, according to the company’s website.