As anticipated last week, the Chilean indigenous group that has led the legal battle against Barrick Gold’s (TSX:ABX) (NYSE:ABX)$8.5 billion Pascua Lama project has asked the country’s Supreme Court to revoke the environmental license for the mine.
The Diaguita community, which claims Pascua Lama threatens its water supply and it is polluting glaciers, submitted Monday a formal claim asking authorities to force the world’s largest gold mining company to prepare a new environmental impact study.
The scenario, according to Juan Carlos Guajardo, head of mining think tank CESCO, is “the most serious” of all the possible outcomes for Barrick so far.
“The fact that the Diaguitas won their case unanimously in the Copiapo court sets a complicated precedent (for the project) should the case land in the Supreme Court,” he told Reuters on Friday.
In an interview with local newspaper La Tercera (in Spanish) the lawyer representing the Diaguitas, Lorenzo Soto, said his 3,000 plaintiffs want Barrick to apply for a new permit, which takes into account their anthropological and cultural claims to the watershed below the mine.
Pascua Lama, which would produce about 800,000 to 850,000 ounces of gold a year in the first full five years of its 25 year life, was scheduled to start production in the second half of 2014. The mine is set to become one of the top gold and silver mines in Chile, the world’s top copper producer.
Image courtesy of Opsur