Fresh ‘incident’ at Barrick’s Veladero mine in Argentina

Veladero is one of the largest gold mines in Argentina. (Image by Ferjacon | Wikimedia Commons)

A fresh incident has been registered at Barrick Gold’s (TSX, NYSE:ABX) Veladero mine in the San Juan province of Argentina in what is the third issue affecting the operation in less than 18 months.

According to Osvaldo Lima, the provincial government spokesman, a pipe carrying a “rich mixture” of gold and rocks came lose on Tuesday night, local paper La Nacion reports (in Spanish), without offering further details.

Barrick did not reply to requests for more information by the time this story was published, but San Juan authorities said they would release an official statement later in the day.

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

The incident is the third registered at the operation in less than 18 months.

In early 2016, the Toronto-based miner was ordered to pay a 145.7m pesos fine (about $9.8m at the time) over a cyanide spill at the same mine, which happened almost exactly a year before.

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

The news come barely a day after the world’s No.1 gold producer by value announced a 50-50 partnership with Goldcorp (TSX:G) (NYSE:GG) to develop projects in northern Chile, particularly Cerro Casale, one of the world’s largest gold-copper deposits.

It also comes as Barrick tries to strengthen its position in Latin America, a market where it has experienced a series of challenges since the beginning of the decade.

In September, the gold miner appointed a new executive, George Bee, to lead the development of the Argentine side of the mothballed Pascua Lama gold, silver and copper project straddling the border between Chile and Argentina.

A few months later, it hired a new director for the region — Pablo Marcet — with decades of mining experience in the geographic area.

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.