A Chilean court has ordered the Pascua Lama gold mine to suspend operations amid claims that rivers supporting indigenous communities have been polluted.
Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the construction of the multi-million dollar project may be halted for a number of months. The mine is run by Canadian-based Barrick Gold Corp, the world’s largest miner of gold.The Court of Appeals in Copiapó, located in the northern Atacama region, have heard evidence from indigenous communities who claim Barrick’s activities have unlawfully destroyed glaciers and polluted valuable rivers used for drinking water by inhabitants of the area.
“The suspension could be upheld for several months, it is very likely that the situation will end up in Chile’s Supreme Court,” said a source from the judiciary.
The Chilean interior minister, Andrés Chadwick, said: “It doesn’t surprise me at all that we have been able to successfully suspend work on the mine through a judicial body, environmental allegations must be dealt with very seriously. It is better to suspend operations now while the mine is still being developed.”
Barrick declined to comment because the company has not yet been notified of the court ruling. “We have not yet been informed by the court, so it is impossible for us to talk on the matter and potential implications. Once we have been notified, we will review in detail and make a plan of action,” said a Barrick spokesperson.
The Chilean Commission of Environmental Assessment fined Barrick US$260,000 last February for irregularities in the company’s environmental assessment.
Pascua Lama is the first bi-national mining project in the world. The project is an open-pit gold mine located over 4,000 meters above sea-level. Copper and silver will also be mined.