Home » Barrick Gold Bids Farewell to Pascua-Lama Project with $136 Million Closure Plan

Barrick Gold Bids Farewell to Pascua-Lama Project with $136 Million Closure Plan

The Canadian mining giant seeks to restore the natural condition of the Andes mountains after years of controversy.

by Motoni Olodun

The Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold has submitted a $136 million environmental impact study (EIA) to Chilean authorities for the definitive closure of its Pascua-Lama gold-silver project, which straddles the border with Argentina.

The project, which was shut down in 2020 after years of legal battles over environmental issues, was once touted as one of the world’s largest and most lucrative gold mines, with an estimated reserve of 17.8 million ounces of gold and 671 million ounces of silver.

However, the project faced fierce opposition from local communities, environmental groups, and regulators, who accused Barrick of damaging the fragile ecosystems of the Andes mountains, including three small glaciers on the Chilean side.

In 2013, Chile’s environmental court ordered the suspension of the project and imposed a $16 million fine on Barrick for violating its environmental permit. The company later agreed to pay $140 million to settle a US class-action lawsuit that accused it of misleading investors about the project’s viability.

In 2016, Barrick began a “drastic revision” of the project and announced its intention to mine underground instead of using an open-pit method. It also sold a 50% stake in its Veladero mine in Argentina, which is adjacent to Pascua-Lama, to China’s Shandong Gold for $960 million. The deal included a commitment from Shandong to help Barrick move forward with Pascua-Lama.

However, in 2018, Chile’s environmental regulator ordered the “total and definitive” closure of the project on its side of the border, citing “irreparable damage” to the environment. Barrick appealed the decision but later decided to focus on the Lama portion of the project, in Argentina, which is 50% owned by Shandong.

According to the EIA submitted to Chilean regulators, Barrick seeks to adapt the closure phase of Pascua-Lama in a way that allows to restore surface and underground water flows of the upper part of the Del Estrecho River to a natural condition, similar to the one that existed before the partial execution of the project.

The closure plan involves dismantling the infrastructure, equipment, and facilities that were built for the project, as well as stabilizing and revegetating the affected areas. The plan also includes monitoring and mitigation measures to prevent any further environmental impacts.

Barrick’s CEO Mark Bristow said in a statement that the company is committed to complying with the highest environmental standards and fulfilling its obligations to the communities and authorities in Chile and Argentina.

He added that the company is still optimistic about the potential of the Lama portion of the project, which is expected to announce a final investment decision this year. He also said that Barrick and Shandong are exploring other opportunities for cooperation in the region.

Pascua-Lama was initially expected to produce 800,000 to 850,000 ounces of gold and 35 million ounces of silver per year in the first five years of its 25-year life. The project’s closure marks the end of an era for Barrick, which once dominated the global gold industry with its ambitious and aggressive expansion strategy.

However, the company has also embarked on a new chapter of growth and innovation, as it recently merged with Randgold Resources and acquired a stake in Newmont Mining, creating the world’s largest gold miner by reserves. Barrick has also invested in developing its existing assets, such as the Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of the most technologically advanced mines in the world.

Barrick’s vision is to become the most valued gold mining business in the world, by finding, developing, and owning the best assets, with the best people, to deliver sustainable returns for its shareholders and stakeholders.

Source: Mining.com

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