On Thursday, March 14, the Supreme Court of Chile annulled the October 2018 administrative decision of the Antofagasta Environmental Court to permanently close the Pascua-Lama project, which is owned by a Chilean subsidiary of Barrick Gold. The court rejected four of the five closure orders issued by Chile’s environmental regulator (the Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente or SMA) in January 2018.
The Supreme Court overturned the Antofagasta Environmental Court’s decision on procedural grounds and remanded the case back to the Environmental Court for review by a different panel of judges. The Supreme Court did not review the merits of the SMA’s January 2018 closure orders, which remain in effect and are subject to an appeal by Barrick.
Barrick President and CEO Mark Bristow said that although the Supreme Court’s decision was not helpful in that it delayed a decision on the future of the Pascua-Lama project, the company remains focused on resolving the legal and environmental issues around the project.
In addition to the ongoing remediation work, the company has embarked on a technical review of the project parameters and potential and Bristow added that it has conducted extensive geochemical and geohydrological studies for a water management plan.
Barrick’s Chilean assets include the jointly owned Zaldívar copper mine and the Norte Abierto and Alturas gold projects.
“Chile is an investor-friendly country, with a significant mineral endowment, and which encourages the development of mining projects,” Bristow said. “We believe that despite the legacy challenges relating to the Pascua-Lama project there are exciting opportunities here, especially in the El Indio Belt, and we will be pursuing this in line with our strategy of creating value for all our stakeholders, including the governments, and people, of our host countries.”