Chile top court ratifies closure of Canadian-owned Pascua Lama project

In 2018, Chilean authorities ordered the “total and definitive” closure of Pascua-Lama on their side of the border over environmental issues. (Image courtesy of Ausenco.)

Chile’s Supreme Court on Thursday ratified the definitive closure of Canada-based Barrick Gold’s controversial $8.5 billion Pascua Lama gold and copper mining project, previously ordered to shutter by the country’s environmental regulator in 2018.

The Andean site along the border between Chile and Argentina was the subject of an extensive legal dispute, leading the firm to halt operations before opening due to increased costs and criticisms from shareholders.

Related: TIMELINE: The rise and fall of Pascua-Lama

The court upheld the three charges from the environmental regulator, despite Barrick’s allegations the regulator had acted outside of its powers, it said in its ruling.

The country’s environmental regulator had said the project damaged native flora and fauna, did not fully monitor melting rates of nearby glaciers and dumped acidic waters into a local river.

Barrick appealed the 2018 ruling, though in 2020 an environmental court affirmed the decision, which included a fine of more than 7 billion pesos ($6.72 million).

Environmental organizations and local communities had strongly opposed the project, located in Chile’s Atacama region, on the grounds that it reduced the availability of water in the area and impacted nearby glaciers.

(By Fabian Cambero and Kylie Madry; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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